BALTIMORE – Computer scientists at Johns Hopkins University have developed a way to manage the varying severity of Parkinson’s disease symptoms by using a smartphone app, according to a study published recently in the online journal JAMA Neurology. The app uses sensors to generate a score that reliably reflects the symptom severity. Patients can use the app to monitor symptoms in their home and share this data with their doctor to help fine-tune their treatment. “If you think about it, it sounds crazy, but until these types of studies, we had very limited data on how these people function on Saturdays and Sundays because patients don’t come to the clinic on Saturdays or Sundays,” said E. Ray Dorsey, a co-author of the research paper, in a statement. “We also had very limited data about how people with Parkinson’s do at 2:00 a.m. or 11:00 p.m. because unless they’re hospitalized, they’re generally not being seen in clinics at those times.” Using existing smartphone components, such as its microphone, touch screen and accelerometer, the team members devised five simple tasks involving voice sensing, finger tapping, gait measurement, balance and reaction time to create the app. Using a machine learning technique that the team devised, they were able to convert the data collected with these tests into an objective Parkinson’s disease severity score—a score that better reflected the overall severity of patients’ symptoms and how well they were responding to medication. This smartphone evaluation, the researchers say, should be useful because it doesn’t rely on the subjective observations of a medical staff member. It can also be administered any time of day in a clinic or within the patient’s home, where the patient is less likely to be as nervous as in a medical setting. “Not all research gets integrated tangibly into people’s lives,” said Srihari Mohan, another researcher, in a statement. “What excites me most is the potential for the methods we developed to be deployed seamlessly into a patient’s lifestyle and improve the quality of care.”
HOUSTON – Engineering students at Rice University have designed a mobile app to help patients with Parkinson’s disease.
The app can help patients overcome a symptom known as “freezing,” in which the legs temporarily refuse to follow the brain’s command to lift and move forward.
For many patients, researchers have found that visual, audio or vibratory cues can help them overcome freezing. The app incorporates augmented reality technology, allowing the user to point the phone at the floor or sidewalk and trigger it to place the image of a block, circle or other object where his or her foot should land. That visual cue is often enough to allow patients to initiate their gait.
The Stairway to Stability app can also provide audio or sensory cues through the phone’s sound and vibration capabilities.
“This is for patients who, in their day-to-day lives, experience freezing episodes,” said Gaby Perez, one of the student engineers, in a statement. “There are a couple of devices on the market to help them, but none of them incorporate all three kinds of cues.”
The students said the app has the potential to work more effectively at a significantly lower cost than current solutions for patients, like a cane with a laser attachment.
Because some patients may also experience tremors in their hands, the team created a lanyard phone case that a patient can wear to make the phone easier to manipulate.
The team worked with the Houston Area Parkinson Society to recruit patients who are helping them test the app at Rice’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen.
“Our goal right now is to prove that the concept of augmented reality can be used in a therapeutic context, while maintaining the user-friendly nature of smartphones,” said Dan Burke, another engineering student, in a statement.
MELBOURNE, Australia – Global Kinetics has received $7.7 million from the Australian federal government’s Biomedical Translation Fund to commercialize its Parkinson’s KinetiGraph wearable. The company also announced funding from The Michael J. Fox Foundation, as well as Shake It Up Australia Foundation and Parkinson’s Victoria, to support a clinical study using Global Kinetics PKG technology. The trial is aimed at “sparking a paradigm shift in the treatment and management of Parkinson’s disease,” said John Schellhorn, Global Kinetics CEO, in a statement. “The defining feature of our technology is that it is already used every day to help people with Parkinson’s. Target ranges are the next evolution in the use of wearables to extend the benefits of measurement to people with Parkinson’s who have the greatest need for support.”
LONDON – Health app assessor Our Mobile Health and the charity organization Parkinson’s U.K. are partnering to create a curated library of mHealth apps and devices for people with Parkinson’s disease. “We believe that technology is a vital part of helping people with the condition live empowered lives,” said Julie Dodd, director of digital transformation and communication at Parkinson’s U.K., in a statement. “Not only will all the apps and devices in our library have been rigorously quality checked by Our Mobile Health, but our user panel will provide real-life feedback and guidance for other users.” In the library, which is expected to launch in 2018, people with Parkinson’s can expect to find apps that track symptoms and help them to manage their condition. Our Mobile Health will source the apps from developers and review them against their quality assurance process. The reviews are conducted by a panel of independent experts and look at a range of areas like patient safety, data security and indicators of effectiveness.”
LEXINGTON, Mass. – MC10, maker of body-worn computing systems, has completed its two-and-a-half year collaboration with biopharmaceutical company UCB to study the application of wearable, ambulatory sensors to provide clinical-grade data on Parkinson’s disease.
“Our collaboration with UCB has allowed us to grow as a company by better understanding the needs of patients and the pharmaceutical industry’s efforts and approaches to meeting their needs,” said Scott Pomerantz, CEO of MC10, in a statement.
The study examined the feasibility of monitoring Parkinson’s disease patients in clinic and home settings while wearing sensors built with MC10’s epidermal electronics platform. In addition to data recorded from the wearable sensors, researchers also collected neurological assessments from trained clinicians and patient-reported outcomes.
“Completion of this study is testament to UCB’s mission to foster innovation to help the millions of people living with chronic neurodegenerative diseases,” said Erik Janssen, vice president Global New Patient Solutions, Neurology, at UCB. “UCB is focused on improving understanding about patient experiences, and evolving these insights to improve the management of neurological conditions—providing patients with better control and allowing them to improve treatment outcomes.”
The results of the study are being prepared by both companies for presentation and scientific publication later this year.
“We hope these results, once disseminated, will influence the broader community’s thinking about the place of novel technologies in patient care,” said Janssen.
SEATTLE – Sage Bionetworks is gearing up for a second version of its mPower app this year, with new features and upgrades that echo the feedback of thousands of its study participants.
The mPower study, launched for people with Parkinson’s disease in 2015 and one of the first major applications of Apple’s ResearchKit, has so far included more than 10,000 participants worldwide. Participants volunteered to download the app and perform daily tasks that measure dexterity, short-term memory, balance and speech, all performed with a smartphone’s sensors like its accelerometer, microphone and touchscreen.
“As researchers, we found that there were many systems put into place to help researchers and clinicians, but the voice of the patient was not well-represented,” said Lara Mangravite, Ph.D., mPower’s principal investigator. “We started to think about using mobile technology to hear that voice.”
The second version of the mPower app takes the data Sage Bionetworks has received so far and improves the experience for participants. Technical issues have been solved, and tasks have been tweaked to focus on those that are providing the most relevant information. Researchers are developing new and better ways to track medication use, complete tasks within the app and convey that information back to the participant. The updated app will also track resting tremor.
While ongoing, the study has been able to collect millions of information points from thousands of participants without the researchers ever seeing a patient in person. Sage Bionetworks released its first set of data last March.
“What the data is showing so far is that we are able to observe daily fluctuations in symptom severity,” said Mangravite. “We hope to be able to link that information to modulators and treatment schedules for patients.”
Mangravite said mPower researchers are also learning about what else might be going on in a patient’s life that might be affecting their disease and what factors are important in helping them manage it.
“We hope this ends up being a really useful disease management tool,” said Mangravite. “It’s been a wonderful way to look at a disease on an individual basis and we have great hope of developing digital biomarkers to improve treatment outcomes.”
MELBOURNE – Global Kinetics has received clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for its Personal KinetiGraph, a device designed to improve the assessment and monitoring of Parkinson’s disease and other neurological disorders that affect movement. “This technology brings clinicians a whole new level of accurate information to support more effective and timely treatment decisions,” said Malcolm Horne, Ph.D., Global Kinetics co-founder, in a press release. The Personal KinetiGraph is a wrist-worn device that automatically records motion data over a period of up to 10 days. Clinicians receive detailed information about a patient’s mobility, identifying changes and trends that could help in the diagnosis and treatment of Parkinson’s. The device can also remind patients to take medication and track when it is taken to help with adherence. “The Personal KinetiGraph provides clinicians with a clear and accurate assessment of the patient experience outside of office visits and examinations,” said Andrew Maxwell, Global Kinetics managing director and CEO, in a statement.