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.”