PROTXX, University of Alberta Collaborate to Develop Remote Healthcare Platform for MS Patients

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by David Melamed, PhD |

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The University of Alberta and PROTXX are collaborating to develop wearable sensors for people with multiple sclerosis (MS) and advance a remote healthcare platform that facilitates personalized care and reduces frequency of hospital visits.

The wearable sensors will help monitor neurological, sensory, and musculoskeletal symptoms without the need to wear bulky equipment or make frequent in-office visits. They will operate using a machine learning algorithm that is trained to detect new symptoms of the disease, based on the detection of neuromuscular impairments.

“Healthcare provider lockdowns triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic have highlighted the significant benefits of wearable devices that can expand virtual healthcare and remote patient monitoring for many different medical conditions,” Hossein Rouhani, PhD, a project co-lead at the University of Alberta, said in a press release.

The collaboration will make use of the PROTXX technology, designed to track neurodegenerative conditions with wearable sensors and machine learning, and the University of Alberta’s state-of-the-art Neuromuscular Control and Biomechanics Laboratory (NCBL).

It will focus on MS, which is of “very high-priority due to its high incidence in Alberta and across Canada,” said Rouhani. MS is considered to be very prevalent in Canada, where more than 100,000 people have been diagnosed with the disease, and is the leading cause of neurological disorder for people aged 20–40 in the country. Furthermore, numbers are on the rise, particularly among females.

“We are excited to be teaming with PROTXX to develop a user-friendly, low cost, and medical-grade wearable sensor system to enable earlier detection of MS symptoms, expand personalized remote health monitoring of MS patients, and reduce the frequency and costs of hospital visits,” Rouhani added.

The collaboration has been awarded a Mitacs Accelerate grant, which will support postdoctoral fellows working on the project in 2020 and 2021. Rouhani, a principal investigator at NCBL, will be joined by professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation Chester Ho, MD, in leading the project.

“This is a very timely investigation into the application of remote personalized health monitoring in rehabilitation medicine, starting with MS patients here in Edmonton, but with significant opportunities to enhance healthcare outcomes for other important rehab populations such as stroke and concussion,” Ho said. Ho also is a research affiliate at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital, and senior medical director at the Alberta Health Service (AHS) Neurosciences, Rehabilitation, and Vision Strategic Clinical Network (NRV-SCN).

“Our final goal is to help drive implementation of remote personalized healthcare technologies such as PROTXX in rehabilitation centers across Canada,” Ho said.

The University of Alberta’s facilities and extensive knowledge about MS and neuromuscular biomechanical engineering will help PROTXX to enhance its remote technology and advance the state of MS research, and ultimately better serve patients in need.

“The University of Alberta’s world-class combination of clinical MS research and neuromuscular biomechanical engineering will enhance and accelerate our ability to commercialize innovative new precision healthcare solutions that improve the diagnosis and treatment of complex medical conditions such as MS, by enabling more frequent, individualized, quantitative, and remote assessments of impairment severity and response to treatment and rehabilitation,” said John Ralston, CEO of PROTXX.

“By enabling more frequent collection and sharing of personalized health information, PROTXX is empowering patients to take control of their health and healing journey and filling the gap between conventional and unconventional treatments for neurological disorders,” said Crystal Phillips. an MS patient and the co-founder of Branch Out Neurological Foundation.

“From my patient, fundraising, and funding perspectives, I’m encouraged and excited to see PROTXX’s innovative approach to measuring and managing neurological conditions like multiple sclerosis,” Phillips said.

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