Pioneering smartwatches: Unveiling early Parkinson’s detection with style

In April, we celebrate Parkinson’s disease day to raise awareness about its economic, social and cultural impact.

About 6.2 million people worldwide suffered from it in 2015, resulting in 117,200 deaths. Worldwide, Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the second most common neurodegenerative condition [1].

Exciting new technology

New research shows how smartwatches can detect PD years before symptoms appear.

Researchers found a strong correlation between reduced daytime movement over a week and a clinical diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease up to 7 years later using wearable motion-tracking data from UK Biobank participants. 

“Smartwatch data is easily accessible and low-cost. By using this type of data, we would potentially be able to identify individuals in the very early stages of Parkinson’s disease within the general population,” lead researcher Cynthia Sandor, PhD, from Cardiff University, said in a published statement in Medscape [2].

As a result, it will improve recruitment for clinical trials and allow patients to access treatments earlier when they become available. The study was published in Nature Medicine [3]

Insight into PD biomarkers

From 2013 to 2016, 103,712 UK Biobank participants wore medical-grade smartwatches for seven days. The researchers analyzed accelerometry data using machine learning. Within two years of accelerometry data collection, 273 participants were diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. 

More than two years after accelerometry data collection, 196 individuals received a new diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease (symptomatic group). Predicting whether an individual would develop PD was more accurate with accelerometry data than other risk factors (lifestyle, genetics and blood chemistry).

By detecting Parkinson’s disease before symptoms appear, smartwatches could potentially make a significant difference in research and patient care. It is hoped that this early intervention will benefit many individuals with Parkinson’s.

Learn more about the study on Nature Medicine.

Parkinson’s efforts: more updates

Regarding other updates, a landmark study conducted by The Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research announced its expansion to Canada last April.

Many Canadian sites, including the Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital (The Neuro), Toronto Western Hospital and The Ottawa Hospital, are recruiting Parkinson’s patients who haven’t begun treatment yet.


Photograph: baffos/Envato
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