A major new European research program to develop ways of monitoring three main central nervous system diseases —multiple sclerosis (MS), depressive disorder, and epilepsy — using wearable devices and smartphones was launched on April 26. The RADAR-CNS (Remote assessment of disease and relapse Central Nervous System) project, supported by the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), aims to improve people’s quality of life and potentially change how a range of chronic disorders are treated.
Smartphone and wearable device technology now enable a continuous remote assessment of patients, and provide a complete picture of real-time health status with levels of detail once unachievable. These mobile technologies also have the potential to initiate treatment before someone’s health deteriorates, preventing relapses or arresting progression before a patient recognizes the need to actively seek treatment.
The RADAR-CNS program is jointly led by Kings College London and Janssen Pharmaceutica NV, which are being funded by the IMI, a public-private partnership established between the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) and the European Union. The IMI includes 24 member organizations across Europe and the U.S., and the program brings together experts from a diversity of fields, including clinical research, engineering, computer science, information technology, data analytics, and health services.
Epilepsy, depression, and MS are distinct disorders, with different causes and symptoms, but all can detrimentally affect quality of life and life expectancy. With all three disorders, patients may experience intervals during which their symptoms are manageable, interspersed with periods of deterioration and acute illness (relapse). Patient surveys repeatedly highlight the need to predict when relapses begin to set in to allow the timely administration of treatments.
The RADAR-CNS program’s co-leader, Matthew Hotopf, a professor of General Hospital Psychiatry at the Kings College London UK Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, said in a press release: “In recent years, the quality and quantity of data that we can collect using wearable devices and smartphones has exploded. It may be that this sort of data can improve clinical care simply by providing more accurate information. Better still, it may be possible to spot when a patient is getting into trouble before their clinic visit.
“For example, in depression, someone’s behaviour may change even before they have noticed they are struggling. Their sleep may get worse, or they may stop doing so much in the weeks leading up to a relapse. RADAR-CNS will exploit the huge potential of wearable technologies to improve the lives of the millions of people worldwide with chronic illnesses like epilepsy, depression and multiple sclerosis.”
A Horizon 2020 release noted that the RADAR-CNS proposal seeks to address/utilize two important aspects of central nervous system (CNS) diseases. First, most diseases are dynamic in nature, characterized by multiple reoccurrences and relapses, each of which tends to accelerate the downward spiral of underlying disease pathology.
Second, the onset of reoccurrences, exacerbations, and relapses in these diseases cause changes in parameters related to sleep, physical activity, speech, cognition, social connectivity, and memory that can increasingly be measured remotely and passively via wearable biosensors and smartphones.
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