MJ Fox Foundation tests apps to study Parkinson’s


It will soon be possible for doctors to monitor the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease of patients with the help of wearable sensors and the Michael J Fox Foundation is trying to make this possible.

The charity Foundation is teaming up with Intel to provide Parkinson’s patients with smart watches. Intel’s Basis division has manufactured the devices.

The two organisations conducted tests during the past few months. They are now planning to release the app to assist doctors to study the impacts of different medications on the patients.

Researchers are giving a cautious welcome to the initiative.

After being diagnosed with Parkinson’s, a degenerative neurological disorder, the actor Michael J Fox established his foundation in New York in 2000.

Though the exact cause for Parkinson’s is still not known, it is generally understood that the disease descends on the patient due to a mixture of environmental and genetic factors.

Symptoms of the disease could include stiffness in body, uncontrollable body movements, tremors impaired co-ordination and balance, slow movement of body, slow decline in intellectual functioning, swallowing and speech problems and loss of smell.

As per estimates Parkinson’s affects roughly five million people across the world. It usually occurs during old age.

The link-up between the foundation and Intel happened due to the initiative of Andy Grove, the tech company’s former chief executive. Today, Grove, who was also diagnosed with Parkinson’s, functions as a senior advisor to the foundation.

Chief executive of the foundation, Todd Sherer, said the new initiative is likely to give the foundation a chance to come up with breakthroughs in Parkinson’s disease by understanding how the patients are coping with the disease, how are the patients are responding to treatments and what could be their yet-to-be-met needs.

The wearable sensors are expected to supply researchers with better and accurate data than compared to subjective and traditional methods.

Earlier this year, the two organisations had funded a preliminary test. As part of the test, 16 Parkinson’s patients and nine control volunteers were equipped with the devices for a period of four days.

The smart watches permit over 300 data points to be recorded each second and translate up to one gigabyte of information per patient per day. The data was then transmitted to Intel’s system with the help of a smart phone.

During the test period, all the participants were equipped with paper-and-pen diaries when they attended the two clinical visits.

Data scientists of Intel continue to process the findings of the data.

Apart from checking if the wearable technology’s records compare with those recorded by the participants involved, the tech firm wants to develop algorithms that allow symptoms of body movement and patterns of sleep to be measured automatically and make the information available for a review by the doctors in real time.

During the next stage of the study, the two organisations plant to release an app that gives a chance to the patients to record their feelings and to report the intake of their medication in order to help scientists assess the efficacy of the administered drugs and then notify the medics before they decide on the prescriptions.

This phase of the trial is to be done in New York, Boston and also in Israel.

Intel has assured that the privacy of the patients will not be compromised during or after the study.


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