Intel partners on Parkinson's disease research
August 15, 2014 // 2:26 p.m.
Intel has announced a partnership with the Michael J. Fox Foundation to put its recent wearables investments to good use: to improve research and treatment for Parkinson's disease.
First noted by the eponymous Dr. James Parkinson in 1817, Parkinson's is a degenerative condition which results in a progressive decline starting with poor motor control and uncontrollable shaking and later moving to mental and behavioural problems. Unfortunately, Parkinson's is ideopathic: it has no known cause, an issue Intel and the Michael J. Fox Foundation is eager to solve.
'Nearly 200 years after Parkinson's disease was first described, we are still subjectively measuring Parkinson's disease largely the same way doctors did then,' explained Todd Sherer, chief executive officer of The Michael J. Fox Foundation, of the partnership. 'Data science and wearable computing hold the potential to transform our ability to capture and objectively measure patients' actual experience of disease, with unprecedented implications for Parkinson's drug development, diagnosis and treatment.'
Intel has been investing heavily in wearable technologies of late, acquiring and taking capital in companies building wearable computing systems and sensors and developing its own low-power chip, the Quark, for such systems. Using existing technologies no more complex than the average sleep-tracking bracelet, the two companies are hoping to gather data that will lead to a more detailed understanding of the progression of Parkinson's and how it reacts to molecular changes. The pair have already begun their study, giving wearable sensors to 16 patients and nine control subjects to wear during two clinic visits and four continuous days at home and a supporting smartphone app to record events like the taking of medication.
'I know that many doctors tell their patients to keep a log to track their Parkinson's,' study participant Bret Parker has said. 'I am not a compliant patient on that front. I pay attention to my Parkinson's, but it's not everything I am all the time. The wearables did that monitoring for me in a way I didn't even notice, and the study allowed me to take an active role in the process for developing a cure.'
Unlike the patient-provided logs, the wearables stored more than 300 observations per second - a wealth of data the two companies are now working to analyse.