Apple Inc. engineers have discovered that smartwatches may be a useful tool for tracking the progression of Parkinson’s disease in patients, thanks to collaboration with researchers from many US institutions. The group outlines a pilot trial of an app developed for the Apple smartwatch, as well as an informal experiment with 225 Parkinson’s patients who used the smartwatch and app for six months in their paper published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease that affects the nervous system over time. People with the condition develop tremors, muscle problems, and trouble getting around as the basal ganglia in the brain degenerate. While there is no cure for the disorder, there are a number of drugs that can help to delay its progression and alleviate symptoms. More information about the severity of a patient’s symptoms, according to medical researchers, may help improve treatments by providing advice about how to adjust drug doses to suit individual needs. Doctors currently have to rely on tests and patient accounts performed when patients visit the office for updates. These visits are often spread out over months. Apple and the team working with them looked at the possibility of using smartwatches to monitor tremor-like movements around the clock using data from the smartwatch’s gyroscope and accelerometer in this new effort. The team developed the Motor Fluctuations Monitor for Parkinson’s Disease software for Apple’s smartwatch.
The team used 118 volunteers and several clinicians qualified to monitor Parkinson’s symptoms in a pilot study to see if their app operated as anticipated. The researchers were so encouraged by their pilot findings that they decided to perform a wider study with 225 Parkinson’s patients who agreed to wear the smartwatch for six months. The smartwatches were able to detect certain signs that their caregivers had ignored, according to the researchers. They propose that the smartwatch and software be used to assist physicians in determining drug dosages that correspond to symptoms as the disease progresses.
Apple has not stated whether or not it will continue to research the device or perform clinical trials. If they do, the business would almost certainly need to apply to the FDA for approval of their method.