According to Parkinson’s Foundation, nearly one million people in the US live with Parkinson’s disease. In partnership with leading academic researchers, health technology researchers from Verily Lifesciences have developed a virtual exam that can enable frequent and reliable remote measurements of motor function.
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement. Symptoms start gradually, sometimes starting with a barely noticeable tremor in just one hand. Tremors are common, but the condition also commonly causes stiffness or slowing of movement.
Symptoms often begin on one side of the body or even in one limb on one side of the body. As the disease progresses, it eventually affects both sides. However, the symptoms may still be more severe on one side than on the other.
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Challenges in existing evaluation tests
There are emerging treatments being developed to slow down or even halt the progression of PD. One of the challenges is that clinic-based physical exams provide only a snapshot of PD signs and may not correctly reflect a patient’s functioning at home.
Moreover, many people live far from major medical centers, so access to clinical trials of new therapeutics becomes restricted to a limited portion of the Parkinson’s population.
Verily LifeSciences, a Google subsidiary, has been exploring using sensor-based remote monitoring and has developed a Smartwatch-based Parkinson’s Disease Virtual Motor Exam (PD-VME) that can be deployed to measure the severity of tremor bradykinesia remotely and gait impairment via a self-guided active assessment.
The researchers published their study results from a multi-year deployment of the smartwatch-based remote monitoring platform to study the reliability, validity, and sensitivity of a set of digital measures. The platform was used in the Personalized Parkinson Project (PPP).
Data were collected as part of the ongoing Personalized Parkinson Project (PPP), a prospective, longitudinal, single-center study (Clinical Trials NCT033648) of 520 people with early-stage Parkinson’s disease—diagnosed within the last five years.
Study participants wear a smartwatch (Verily Study Watch) for up to 23 h/day for the 3-year duration of the study, which passively collects raw sensor data from IMU, gyroscope, photoplethysmography, and skin conductance sensors.
This new study shows that patients engage robustly with the smartwatch-based PD-VME and can complete remote active assessments of motor function to yield data of sufficient quality to generate digital measurements of motor signs, test their analytical validity, and assess their sensitivity changes in medication status.
The system allows for an increased frequency of data collection, enabling monthly aggregation of measurements, leading to increased test-retest reliability. In turn, high reliability suggests that these measures have potential as digital biomarkers of progression.
CUE1, A wearable from Imperial College Charco Neurotech, shows promise for Parkinson’s Disease management
This week, there was also excitement around a new wearable from UK-based Charco Neurotech that is expected to help people suffering from PD.
The new wearable gadget CUE1 is attached to a person’s sternum and provides vibrations that help produce nerve signals that travel to the brain and assist with motor control problems.
The CUE1 can function as a pushbutton-activated standalone device, although it also works with an app that can adjust the vibration’s strength and frequency. That app can also be utilized to provide medication reminders and track Parkinson’s symptoms.
A larger-scale trial should soon be conducted with the Queen Mary University of London. In the meantime, prospective buyers can join a waiting list via the company website.
There are currently many initiatives in flight exploring digital biomarkers for Parkinson’s Disease and exploring the use of wearables to combat the disease progression.