Fox, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1991 but didn’t tell the public until 1998, has been in and out of the acting world for more than a decade as his symptoms continue to progress. He established The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research in 2000, which has become the largest nonprofit funder of Parkinson’s-related research in the world, according to the foundation.
The 53-year-old actor from “Back To The Future” told USA Today that research and data obtained from a mobile application, which would work in tandem with popular fitness trackers, could help patients keep track of their medications’ effectiveness, their eating habits, and their environmental and physical changes that occur while sleeping.
“The answers are within us,” Fox told USA Today. “We just need to find a way to let people into our brains both literally and figuratively to help us figure this out.
Fox said the collaboration between his foundation and Intel began in spring, when a pilot group of 25 people measured their tremors and sleep patterns and streamed the data in-real time to the cloud. Intel has been providing the servers and the software to collect and organise the biometric data from Parkinson’s patients, and it’s also working on algorithms that can easily analyse the data, according to Diane Bryant, senior VP and general manager of Intel’s Data Center Group.
“Ten years ago, it would have been ridiculous to consider,” Bryant told USA Today. Intel wouldn’t say how much it’s investing in The Michael J. Fox Foundation’s new app, but Bryant said the collaboration is made possible since it’s much cheaper to develop and produce this kind of software platform.
Todd Sherer, CEO of the Fox Foundation, said the app would be a huge boon for doctors, since Parkinson’s patients tend to “minimize symptoms for their doctor, or time their medication so they will perform well during [a doctor] visit.” He said he’ll test patients and they will look OK, but their spouses will say, “You should have seen them yesterday.”
The mobile app will provide a much more objective statement of how each patient is progressing and/or reacting to new symptoms. The Fox Foundation says devices that use the software can facilitate Parkinson’s research to “highlight trends or differences among people with PD … [which] may point researchers to new areas of interest in our pursuits of learning more about Parkinson’s and of developing a cure.”
If the pilot program is successful, Sherer said wearable devices could eventually be used for clinical research trials so doctors can receive more-accurate updates about their patient’s disease.
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