Wearables project aims to provide new source of data for MS trials

Imperial's Paul Matthews

At last year's European Medicines Agency (EMA) workshop on multiple sclerosis, speakers from Biogen Idec ($BIIB), Novartis ($NVS) and multiple medical centers stressed the need for trials to better assess disability and quality of life measures. Now a project is aiming to deliver such data by fitting people with MS with sensors that continually measure gait, balance and activity.

The study aims to recruit 40 people in the United Kingdom to wear watch-sized sensors on their belts. By placing the sensors around the body's center of mass, the team from Imperial College London hopes to gather data on each individual's position and walking speed. Data gathered by the sensors will then be uploaded via WiFi or Bluetooth, giving the researchers an objective insight into the activities of each participant between visits to their physicians.

Such data could give clinical trial teams a clearer picture of the efficacy of a treatment. "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. It would be much more meaningful than the crude 'snapshot' we see during a clinic visit," professor Paul Matthews, study lead and head of the division of brain sciences at Imperial College London, said in a statement.

Matthews and his team are also planning to create a smartphone app to gather patient-reported outcomes and a cloud-based platform on which patients can view their own data. The Progressive MS Alliance has committed €74,995 ($97,190) to the project as part of its round of 22 research grants. Another biotech IT project received a similar amount. A Belgian team will use the cash to create a shared repository of data on the efficacy of physical rehabilitation. 

- read the Imperial release
- check out the MS Alliance summary
- and its data repository overview