Scientists at the National University of Singapore (NUS) have developed a new medical device which could facilitate faster muscle recovery in post-surgical patients, the elderly and professional athletes.

By harnessing the power of a specific magnetic field, the new device, known as MRegen, makes use of specific magnetic field, which triggers and amplifies the biological effect of exercise and thus enhances muscle recovery.

The earth is surrounded in a protective magnetic field which is believed to have enabled life to evolve. Its ability to influence human development has prompted scientists to investigate ways to harness magnetic fields for therapeutic purposes. Although creating a magnetic field is simple, the ability to generate the appropriate stimulation for a therapeutic effect is technologically challenging.

The team of NUS researchers, led by Associate Professor Alfredo Franco-Obregón, investigated the effect of magnetic fields on muscle cells. By combining two fundamental concepts, the regulation of muscle development by energy production and the sensitivity of energy management to magnetic fields, the scientists developed their device to be able to activate energy production and trigger muscle regeneration.

“The device provides a uniform electromagnetic field to a muscle area at a magnitude and pulse duration that reproduces the same regenerative, energetic and metabolic responses as physical activity,” said Franco-Obregón. “The duration of use for the device has been optimised for providing the largest therapeutic effect in terms of muscle equality, function and metabolic stability.”

During the first clinical trial of the device, the researchers found that those who were given 10 minutes of magnetic stimulation once per week for five consecutive weeks showed an average of 30% to 40% improvement in muscle strength in both legs. In the second trial, the research team found that those using the device recovered four weeks faster than those given standard rehabilitation therapy. The researchers have just filed a patent for their technology and have since created a spinoff company to commercialise it.