In a recent study, researchers describe a new, multi-sensor tool designed to measure subtle changes in multiple sclerosis (MS) patients, allowing physicians to more frequently and more quickly respond to changes in symptoms or patient condition.

The study was published in Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology.

“We currently lack reliable measures of subtle MS disability progression over short time intervals,” says senior study author Jennifer Graves, MD, PhD, a neurologist at UC San Diego Health and associate professor of neurosciences at UC San Diego School of Medicine, in a media release from University of California – San Diego.

“For example, a patient may tell us that that she can no longer play piano, but our 150-year-old bedside neurological exam techniques can’t quantify this. In a standard clinical trial, this patient would be rated stable and not progressing. Developing tools that can capture MS progression reliably within 6 to 12 months instead of 3 to 5 years will drive faster drug development for the most disabling forms of MS.”

Traditional assessment of MS has involved periodic clinical exams, which may only produce actionable findings over the course of several years. There are no tools to measure smaller, more subtle changes in the disease that may happen in shorter intervals.

The new device employs a combination of sensors, such as accelerometers, gyroscopes and surface electromyography (which records nerve electrical impulses using electrodes placed on the skin), that have been repurposed from commercial uses, the release explains.

“The use of multi-sensors allows for use of complementary data-types that can be employed for a more comprehensive view of the movement,” Graves comments. “The types of sensors we used are widely available in different hardware products.

“We used a product that could be purchased off Amazon and was originally used for gaming and other gesture control tasks. The critical steps in our work involved the data processing and analyses, including use of artificial intelligence approaches,” she adds.

The device involves wearing a small, sensor-laden band on the forearm or calf, then completing 20 finger or foot taps. Data is wirelessly downloaded to a computer in real time. The procedure is repeated on all four limbs of the patient, and takes less than 5 minutes.

“A great advantage is potential use by non-experts and even non-clinicians, such as medical assistants or research coordinators,” Graves shares.

The researchers are now preparing to publish a longitudinal analysis demonstrating the device’s sensitivity to within patient changes over short time periods. Subsequent steps include validation in a multi-site study and development of commercial grade software to allow more expansive dissemination, the release concludes.

[Source(s): University of California – San Diego, EurekAlert]