A step on the road towards real-time drug delivery for those living with Parkinson’s Disease
A wearable device to help improve the quality of life for Parkinson’s disease patients is being developed in a €4.7 million project involving NUI Galway. The project has completed its first phase which was gathering data on the movements of those living with Parkinson’s Disease.
The completed ‘Personal Health System’ will include a portable system, capable of identifying the motor status of patients, guiding them to walk more easily, and delivering real-time data to their medical care teams. Real-time data, it’s hoped will lead to real-time drug delivery which will increase the efficiency of the drug treatment for a longer time.
The REMPARK (Personal Health Device for the Remote and Autonomous Management of Parkinson’s Disease) EU FP7 project involves 11 partners across Europe, including NUI Galway and Irish electronics manufacturing company M&M Qualtech, also based in Galway.
After Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative condition, with estimates that there are approximately 8,000 living with the condition in Ireland. The REMPARK project expects to ultimately improve the management of the disease, reduce the hospitalisation of patients, and improve medical knowledge on Parkinson’s through the quantitative evaluation of associated motor problem states.
Professor Gearóid Ó Laighin, Professor of Electronic Engineering at NUI Galway and REMAPRK Principal Investigator for NUI Galway says “one of the main problems associated with Parkinson’s is the motor fluctuations suffered by the patients. These include tremors, changes in walking speed, freezing of gait and falls, and the severity of these depends on the patient and the stage of progression of the disease.”
NUI Galway’s technical contribution to the project will be in the development of a novel electrical stimulation system to help manage these motor fluctuations. The University will work closely with M&M Qualtech in developing the device.
As one of four clinical partners, NUI Galway/University Hospitals Galway will also provide access to Irish Parkinson’s patients to test and evaluate the system under development, with the support and assistance of patient groups such as the Galway Parkinson’s Association and the European Parkinson’s Disease Association.
The REMPARK project will also use smart phone technology to feed information to a central computer server, to enable easy interaction with neurologists supervising patients.
Dr Tim Counihan, Consultant Neurologist, University Hospitals Galway and Senior Lecturer, NUI Galway explains that “at the moment, medication is used to mitigate the set of symptoms. Neurologists try to set the medication dose in order to avoid the presence of motor fluctuations as much as possible. The problem that neurologists currently face is the lack of quantitative information on the intensity of the symptoms and their duration. Neurologists would be able to manage the disease more effectively if this information could be provided, which we hope is what the REMPARK project will deliver.”
The REMPARK group at NUI Galway is a multidisciplinary effort and involves an important collaboration with the Discipline of Physiology, led by Dr Leo Quinlan. Dr Quinlan says “this is a wonderful example of translational research, capitalising on the synergies between Engineering and Biomedical Sciences to deliver solutions to an unmet clinical need and a real-life daily challenge for Parkinson’s patients.”