Muscle as a tunable material: Implications for achieving muscle-like function in robotic prosthetic devices

Kiisa Nishikawa, Thomas G. Huck

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

An ideal prosthesis should perform as well as or better than the missing limb it was designed to replace. Although this ideal is currently unattainable, recent advances in design have significantly improved the function of prosthetic devices. For the lower extremity, both passive prostheses (which provide no added power) and active prostheses (which add propulsive power) aim to emulate the dynamic function of the ankle joint, whose adaptive, time-varying resistance to applied forces is essential for walking and running. Passive prostheses fail to normalize energetics because they lack variable ankle impedance that is actively controlled within each gait cycle. By contrast, robotic prostheses can normalize energetics for some users under some conditions. However, the problem of adaptive and versatile control remains a significant issue. Current prosthesis-control algorithms fail to adapt to changes in gait required for walking on level ground at different speeds or on ramps and stairs. A new paradigm of 'muscle as a tunable material' versus 'muscle as a motor' offers insights into the adaptability and versatility of biological muscles, which may provide inspiration for prosthesis design and control. In this new paradigm, neural activation tunes muscle stiffness and damping, adapting the response to applied forces rather than instructing the timing and amplitude of muscle force. A mechanistic understanding of muscle function is incomplete and would benefit from collaboration between biologists and engineers. An improved understanding of the adaptability of muscle may yield better models as well as inspiration for developing prostheses that equal or surpass the functional capabilities of biological limbs across a wide range of conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberjeb225086
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Volume224
Issue number19
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2021

Keywords

  • Muscle mechanics
  • Muscle models
  • Preflex
  • Titin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Muscle as a tunable material: Implications for achieving muscle-like function in robotic prosthetic devices'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this