A recent study conducted by researchers at Oxford University has found that digital wearable devices are more effective at tracking the progression of Parkinson's disease in individuals than human clinical observation. The study, which was published in the journal npj Parkinson's Disease, utilized wearable sensors to track over 100 metrics related to the movements of subjects with Parkinson's. By analyzing these metrics, the researchers were able to detect subtle changes in movement that indicate the progression of the disease.
It is important to note that the findings of this study do not provide a treatment for Parkinson's. Instead, they offer a means of helping scientists assess whether novel drugs and therapies for Parkinson's are slowing the progression of the disease. The lead researcher, Chrystalina Antoniades, emphasized that the sensors used in the study provide a biomarker that could potentially indicate whether a drug is effective in treating Parkinson's.
Traditionally, drug trials for Parkinson's have relied on clinical assessment to determine if a treatment is slowing disease progression. However, clinical observation can miss day-to-day changes or subtle shifts that may not be evident during periodic visits to a doctor. The study's authors concluded that the wearable sensors were more effective at tracking the progression of Parkinson's than the conventional clinical rating scales commonly used in drug trials.
The sensors used in the study employed technologies such as accelerometers and gyroscopes, which are commonly found in digital watches and smartphones. These devices can measure a person's direction, gait, and regularity of movement, among other metrics.
While the study's results have generated excitement, it is important to understand that the wearable devices are not a cure for Parkinson's. They are a tool that can aid in the development of treatments for the disease. Dr. Antoniades expressed optimism about the potential use of similar sensors to track other illnesses, such as Alzheimer's.
Ultimately, human doctors will continue to play a vital role in the diagnosis and treatment of Parkinson's and other diseases. The wearable sensors can complement the observations of clinicians, enhancing their ability to accurately assess a patient's condition. The hope is that this technology will improve the overall effectiveness of treatment and care for individuals with Parkinson's and other diseases.