Dr. Annette Pantall; Dr. Lisa Alcock; Dr. Rishad Shafik; Dr. Mathew Elameer, Newcastle University
The ageing process starts in early adulthood and affects all cells, tissues, and organs with consequential impact on function. Although age-related changes in the heart and nervous system are well recognized, effect of age on other tissues, such as skeletal muscle are less well known. Age related muscle loss and weakness, also known as sarcopenia, are present in up to 20% of adults over 65 years. This leads to reduced mobility, which is essential for a good quality of life and longevity and increases the risk of falls and fractures. Health care costs directly associated with muscle weakness and loss were estimated to be £2.5 billion in the UK and over $40 billion in the United States. Assessing the health of the muscular system and providing appropriate interventions are therefore essential for advancing healthy ageing and longevity. Currently there is no reliable non-invasive, low-cost method of assessing muscle function. Our multidisciplinary team is designing a novel wearable device – the ‘MyoSock’ – a low cost, non-invasive smart wearable sock with embedded electronics. Special sensors measure activity of muscle and movement and we are developing software to relate these features to muscle health and sarcopenia. Part of our validation will use detailed magnetic resonance imaging which allows us to ‘look inside’ the muscle. Our goal is that the ‘MyoSock’ will form part of clinical physical health checks as well as used by the general public to monitor muscle health, similar to how the Fitbit or Apple Watch empowers individuals to record other health features. This device could transform the approach to health care of the ageing population by addressing muscle health, which is essential for healthy ageing yet currently not adequately screened for and treated.
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