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Motion capture technology: a new tool for research into rare neurodegenerative diseases

Motion-capture technology: a new tool for research into rare neurodegenerative diseases

January 27, 2023

Research and drug development for rare diseases are often hampered by the need for large numbers of patients to assess clinical trial outcomes and, in the case of rare neurodegenerative diseases, by slow disease progression. In particular, the “by eye” behavioral assessments currently used to monitor disease progression require long-term observation to detect changes in patient status, may be subject to observer bias, and can lack the precision needed to detect small but clinically relevant alterations in functional capabilities.

Wearable sensors: more than just entertainment

We have all become accustomed to seeing characters in films like Avatar being brought to life using wearable motion capture technology. This technique has now been combined with machine learning and tested as tool for monitoring and predicting disease progression for medical research on two rare diseases:

  • Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a rare, X-linked recessive, neuromuscular disease (incidence: 1/3,500 to 1/4,000 boys and 1/50,000,000 girls), characterized by progressive muscle degeneration and weakness.
  • Friedreich’s ataxia is a rare (1/20,000 to 1/50,000 individuals), inherited, degenerative disease of the central nervous system characterized by impaired muscle co-ordination.

The two studies were published in the prestigious journal Nature Medicine on January 19, 2023:

In both studies, the disease predictions generated using the digital recordings outperformed those based on standard clinical assessments. Thus, the behavioral features, or digital biomarkers, identified by the wearable motion sensors could be used to more accurately track an individual’s disease progression or response to a new therapy, helping to reduce the time and size of the cohorts needed for clinical trials.

Santé Active Edition – Synergy Pharm