If you’re living with Parkinson’s disease, you’re familiar with the clinical exam at the doctor’s office. You tap your fingers and rise from a chair, which tells your physician how you’re doing and helps determine any changes in your treatment regimen. Research studies use the same measures to evaluate the impact of potential therapies.
Such outdated methods used only at periodic appointments tell far from the whole story. Parkinson’s is a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week disease. Patients and their doctors need a better way to monitor PD, and researchers need a more objective way to measure the effect of new drugs. The solution might come through the use of wearable devices such as smartwatches.
Wrist-worn devices that track users’ movement have exploded in the market over the last few years, and The Michael J. Fox Foundation and Intel Corporation are partnering to gather and analyze data from these devices worn by people with Parkinson’s. The results could help individuals and their doctors better manage disease and could progress research toward better treatments and a cure.
As Michael J. Fox told USA Today, "The answers are within us. We just need to find a way to let people into our brains both literally and figuratively to help us figure this out."
Wearable Devices May Measure Parkinson’s Symptoms
MJFF’s partnership with Intel began earlier this year, when we launched a study to evaluate three wearable devices for tracking measurable features of Parkinson’s like slowness and frequency of movement.
Register for Fox Trial Finder to be matched with studies near you that need volunteers.
Participants with and without PD wore the devices during two clinic visits and at home over a few days. Intel engineers are now comparing the device data to clinical observations and patient diaries to test the devices’ accuracy, and are developing algorithms (mathematical formulas) to measure symptoms and disease progression.
These wearable devices can capture up to 300 observations per second, so algorithms or formulas to interpret all that data and report what it means related to someone’s Parkinson’s can help individuals and their physicians monitor disease.
Device Data Can Speed Research
Researchers need to monitor disease, too. Research studies use the same office exams or patient diaries to test if an experimental drug has a positive impact on symptoms or disease progression. Clinical trials could use wearable devices and data algorithms to give a clearer picture of a new therapy’s effect. These tools would ease some of the burden for volunteers participating in trials, too.
More Data Means More Insights
In addition to its use in personal disease management and in separate research studies, wearable device data could lead to new areas of research. Intel has developed a data platform that could store de-identified device data from millions of people with Parkinson’s.
Analysts could apply algorithms and other techniques to a mass of data, which may highlight trends or differences among people with PD. These nuances may point researchers to new areas of interest in our pursuits of learning more about Parkinson’s and of developing a cure.
Like many other MJFF initiatives, the platform would be open-access so researchers could upload de-identified data from their studies and could also access others’ de-identified data. Such a model means more data to learn from and more smart minds working on uncovering new clues.
“Data science and wearable computing hold the potential to transform our ability to capture and objectively measure patients’ actual experience of disease, with unprecedented implications for Parkinson’s drug development, diagnosis and treatment,” said MJFF CEO Todd Sherer, PhD.
Next Phase Recruiting Soon
The next phase of the MJFF-Intel study will capture data to measure medication response such as on/off episodes. Recruitment is expected to begin this fall in locations including New York City and Boston and Tel Aviv, Israel.
As we learn more about what wearable devices can tell us about daily living with Parkinson’s, MJFF plans to expand their use to other clinical studies.
Have questions or want to learn more? Join us for a Webinar on August 21 at 12 p.m. ET on the use of wearable device data for Parkinson’s care and research.
Watch a webcast announcement with MJFF and Intel.