Parkinson’s disease to be tracked by wearables

The Michael J Fox Foundation and Intel have developed a wearable device that will track the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease patients.

The device will passively collect 300 observations per second from each wearer, tracking various activities and symptoms, including how slowly they are moving, sleep patterns and tremors.

Intel said the use of this technology will make keeping track of symptoms less burdensome for patients – who currently have to write down their symptoms – and also less subjective.

The Michael J Fox Foundation was established in 2000, eight years after the actor was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and works to try to find a cure for the condition, which affects some seven million people worldwide.

Data science and wearable computing hold the potential to transform our ability to capture and objectively measure patients’ actual experience of disease

It is hoped the work being done with Intel will produce more accurate data, which will advance the Foundation’s mission.

“Nearly 200 years after Parkinson’s disease was first described by Dr James Parkinson in 1817, we are still subjectively measuring Parkinson’s disease largely the same way doctors did then,” Dr Todd Sherer, CEO of The Michael J Fox Foundation said.

“Data science and wearable computing hold the potential to transform our ability to capture and objectively measure patients’ actual experience of disease,” he added.

The project has already been through a preliminary test phase earlier in 2014 to evaluate the usability and accuracy of the wearable device.

The 16 patients and nine control volunteers wore the device constantly for four days and also during two clinical visits.

Brian Baker, who has Parkinson’s disease and participated in the trial, said he is “not a compliant patient” when it comes to logging his symptoms.

“I pay attention to my Parkinson’s, but it’s not everything I am all the time. The wearables did that monitoring for me in a way I didn’t even notice, and the study allowed me to take an active role in the process for developing a cure,” he said.

While the device isn’t ready for production on a mass scale just yet, the Foundation and Intel plan to launch a mobile app later this year. It will let patients record how they’re feeling and what medications they’re taking on an ongoing basis, replacing the current pen-and-paper approach to recording symptoms and well-being.

This will compliment the data recorded by the device, which will be fed into a cloud-based analytics platform. This will give better insight into the progression of the disease, which varies from patient to patient.

“In the near future, the platform could store other types of data such as patient, genome and clinical trial data,” Intel said.

“These advances could provide unprecedented insights into the nature of Parkinson’s disease, helping scientists measure the efficacy of new drugs and assisting physicians with prognostic decisions,” the company added.

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