Movement disorders progression monitored with wearable tech and AI

Jan. 25, 2023

A multi-disciplinary team of researchers has developed a way to monitor the progression of movement disorders using motion capture technology and artificial intelligence (AI).

In two studies published in Nature Medicine, a cross-disciplinary team of AI and clinical researchers have shown that by combining human movement data gathered from wearable tech with a powerful new medical AI technology they are able to identify clear movement patterns, predict future disease progression, and significantly increase the efficiency of clinical trials in two very different rare disorders, Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) and Friedreich's ataxia (FA). 

DMD and FA are rare, degenerative, genetic diseases that affect movement and eventually lead to paralysis. There are currently no cures for either disease, but researchers hope that these results will significantly speed up the search for new treatments. 

Tracking the progression of FA and DMD is normally done through intensive testing in a clinical setting. These papers offer a significantly more precise assessment that also increases the accuracy and objectivity of the data collected. 

The researchers estimate that using these disease markers mean that significantly fewer patients are required to develop a new drug when compared to current methods. This is particularly important for rare diseases where it can be hard to identify suitable patients. Scientists hope that as well as using the technology to monitor patients in clinical trials, it could also one day be used to monitor or diagnose a range of common diseases that affect movement behavior such as dementia, stroke and orthopedic conditions. 

Senior and corresponding author of both papers, Professor Aldo Faisal, from Imperial College London’s Departments of Bioengineering and Computing, said, “Our approach gathers huge amounts of data from a person’s full-body movement – more than any neurologist will have the precision or time to observe in a patient. Our AI technology builds a digital twin of the patient and allows us to make unprecedented, precise predictions of how an individual patient’s disease will progress.” 

He added, “We believe that the same AI technology working in two very different diseases, shows how promising it is to be applied to many diseases and help us to develop treatments for many more diseases even faster, cheaper, and more precisely.” 

Scientists discovered that the new AI technique could also significantly improve predictions of how individual patients’ disease would progress over six months compared to current gold-standard assessments. Such a precise prediction allows to run clinical trials more efficiently so that patients can access novel therapies quicker, and also help dose drugs more precisely. 

This new way of analyzing full-body movement measurements provide clinical teams with clear disease markers and progression predictions. These are invaluable tools during clinical trials to measure the benefits of new treatments. The new technology could help researchers carry out clinical trials of conditions that affect movement more quickly and accurately. 

This AI technology is especially powerful when studying rare diseases, when patient populations are smaller. In addition, the technology allows to study patients across life-changing disease events such as loss of ambulation, whereas current clinical trials target either ambulant or non-ambulant patient cohorts. 

Imperial College London release

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