A wireless device the size of a wifi router has been developed with the support of the Michael J. Fox Foundation that can effectively monitor Parkinson’s patients in their home.
“This could greatly reduce the burden and cost and speed up the development of new therapies.”Dina Katabi, principle investigator in the MIT Jameel Clinic.
The breakthrough could transform the way patients with Parkinson’s, a neurodegenerative disease affecting more than 10 million people globally, are treated. Instead of lengthy trips to the clinic, which can make evaluating motor skills and cognitive functions unreliable, individuals go about their daily lives as usual, with the device picking up any changes in movement, in the process allowing medicine dosages to be tweaked as necessary.
Researchers from MIT discovered that the devices, in combination with machine-learning algorithms that compare 200,000 ‘gait speed measurements’, were more accurate in assessing Parkinson’s progression than in-person evaluations.
“Monitoring the patient continuously as they move around the room enabled us to get really good measurements of their gait speed. And with so much data, we were able to perform aggregation that allowed us to see very small differences,” explains Guo Zhang, graduate student and co-lead author.
The innovation will “tell the doctor remotely about the progression of the disease”, says Dina Katabi, senior author of the study, as well as the “patient’s medication response” as they can now access “real, reliable information that [will go] a long way toward improving equity and access”.
The device, labelled a ‘human radar’, uses and transmits radio signals that bounce off people’s bodies to track them as they move around their home using a ‘tiny fraction of the power of a Wi-Fi router’. The ‘super low-power signals’ also means there is no interference with other devices in the home.
The research team will now apply what they have learned as they develop further at-home studies of devices that can monitor other neurological disorders, like Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s.