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article imageWearable technology to manage patients with Parkinson’s disease

By Tim Sandle     Jul 22, 2017 in Science
Madrid - New wearable sensor networks together with smartphone applications are being examined and tested for their potential to monitor and manage patients with Parkinson’s disease.
The use of wearable sensor networks and mobile phone applications are being tested by scientists and technologists based at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid., in Spain. The research focus is with the development of low-cost wearable sensors to continuously collect and process the accelerometry signals that are medically established to detect and quantify the symptoms. The idea is that once this patient-centric data has been collected it can be digitally collated and sent directly to a hospital. A review of daily data trends will provide an alert to a medic of any outlier, allowing for a speedier examination and the early start of treatment.
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Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system. The disease is triggered by alpha-synuclein aggregates, which are protein formations that lead to loss of dopamine-generating cells. With Parkinson’s disease brain cells exhaust themselves and die prematurely. The cells die because they generate and accumulate too many waste products. This explains why the disease affects some regions of the brain and not others. Symptoms include hand shaking and difficulty walking.
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The Spanish researchers have been looking at the design and development of new mobile phone applications combined with wearable sensors networks to allow for the continuous non-invasive monitoring of patients with Parkinson's disease. This ties in with a wider European Union project called the PERFORM project (A soPhisticatEd multi-paRametric system FOR the continuous effective assessment and Monitoring of motor status in Parkinson's disease and other neurodegenerative diseases).
Central to the technology is the detection of accelerometry signals. This is because subjects with Parkinson’s disease display instances of tremor at an early stage of the disease and later on develop gait impairments and postural instability. By using statistical analysis and machine learning techniques researchers can find the most significant features of the disease and design treatment program. Such data can be most effective when collected in 'real time', which is where the new wearables come in.
The project has affordability at the center, for when the technology becomes commercialized. The researchers are also looking at the application of aural stimulus some that patients with Parkinson's disease carry out exercises and to improve some motor aspects.
The new technologies have been outlined in the journal Sensors, in a research paper titled "Wearability Assessment of a Wearable System for Parkinson’s Disease Remote Monitoring Based on a Body Area Network of Sensors."
For readers interested in potential treatments for Parkinson's disease, based on stem cell technologies, see Digital Journal's article "Northwestern University make advances for Parkinson's treatment."
More about Parkinsons disease, Neurodegenrative disease, wearables, digital health
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