At Imperial London College, a new study designed to develop wearable movement sensors to assess gait in progressive multiple sclerosis (MS) patients in their home environments may ultimately help evaluate new treatments, and provide key information to doctors and feedback to patients regarding their condition.

A news story from the college reports that the study is one of 22 projects in nine countries worldwide, intended to pinpoint effective ways of treating progressive forms of MS. A Newswise news release also summarizes the projects’ recent launch at the MSBoston 2014 Joint ACTRIMS-ECTRIMS Meeting.

The story notes that Paul Matthews, OBE, MD, DPhil, FRCP, FMedSci, Edmond and Lily Safra Chair in Translational Neuroscience and Head of the Division at Imperial College London, is leading the study. Matthews emphasizes in the story that the international research effort is targeted towards progressive MS, and serves as an important start toward enabling more efficient development of treatments for patients with this form of the disease.

“My colleagues and I are committed and excited to be a part of it. By using wearable sensors to monitor the patients as they go about their usual activities, we are planning to get an in-depth and dynamic picture of their experience,” Matthews says.

According to the story, the study is a collaborative effort between the Division of Brain Sciences and the Data Science Institute at Imperial College London. The study aims to encompass a total of 40 patients, recruited through MS clinics at the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust. The patients will don “watch-sized” sensors on a belt or in a position near the body’s center of mass in order to monitor their movements during the course of a year.

Integrating both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, the study is intended to gather real-time information regarding a patient’s position and walking speed. The story states that the Data Science Institute at Imperial College London is slated to play a key role in assembling and analyzing large amounts of data that the study is slated to produce, translating it into meaningful results to develop the technology.

Yike Guo, PhD, department of Computing and director of the Data Science Institute at Imperial College London, designates data in the news story as the “lifeblood of the 21st century,” and goes on to point out that, “The continual monitoring of patients over 1 year would provide a wealth of valuable data. This would help develop the sensors and the systems to provide both clinicians and patients with information to evaluate treatments for progressive MS.”

To improve the wearable technology, the story notes that the study aims to adapt it to accommodate patients with progressive MS. The study also reportedly plans to produce a smartphone app built to collect data from patients regarding characteristics such as quality of life and develop a “Wiki-Health” cloud-based system engineered to allow patients to view their data in a secure area.

Collectively, the story says the cost for the projects involved in the global effort to pinpoint effective treatments for progressive MS and new strategies to assess their impact total out to more than $28.5 million, with funding made available through the UK MS Society and MS charities in the US, Canada, Australia, Italy, and the MS International Federation, with additional support from MS charities in Spain and Denmark, all working under the Progressive MS Alliance.

Michelle Mitchell, chief executive, the MS Society in the UK, states in the story that, “We are delighted to be co-funding this study at Imperial, which could help us measure and track disability in people with MS.”

Visit the alliance’s website to learn more about the other projects funded by the Progressive MS Alliance.

[Source(s): Imperial College London, Newswise]