STAT-ON, a new device that helps monitor the symptoms of patients with Parkinson’s

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The STAT-ON device makes it easy to constantly monitor the on/off fluctuations experienced by patients with Parkinson’s

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STAT-ON, the “Holter for Parkinson’s” developed by the UPC, Sens4Care and the Centro Médico Teknon

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The sensor is held in place with a specially designed belt, which adapts to the body of every user.

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Left to right: Joan Cabestany, UPC and Sens4Care researcher; Dr Àngels Bayés, of the Teknon Medical Center; and Jordi Homs, a patient with Parkinson’s disease.

Growing incidence of Parkinson’s

The incidence of Parkinson’s disease has grown in recent years, largely as a result of longer life expectancy in the general population. Over 7 million individuals worldwide have been diagnosed with this neurodegenerative disease, 1.5 million of whom live in Europe and 150,000 in Spain.

This disease causes serious motor problems throughout its evolution, and may result in freezing as well as hidden non-motor symptoms including pain, apathy, confusion, difficulty speaking, disturbed sleep and depression. According to data from the Spanish Society of Neurology, 10,000 new cases of Parkinson’s are diagnosed every year, and it is the second most frequent neurodegenerative pathology after Alzheimer’s.

Developed of the UPC, the Sense4Care spin-off and the Centro Médico Teknon – Quirónsalud

May 29, 2019

Until now, the lack of precise, continuous data on the clinical status of patients with Parkinson’s disease throughout the day was one of the main difficulties faced by neurologists in charge of adapting treatment. Now, this obstacle has been overcome with the new STAT-ON device, the “Holter for Parkinson’s”.

The result of a full decade of research, this new device is possible thanks to a firm investment in innovation and collaboration by the Parkinson’s Unit of Centro Médico Teknon – Quirónsalud and the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya · BarcelonaTech (UPC) through the Technical Research Centre for Dependency Care and Autonomous Living (CETpD) and Sense4Care, a UPC spin-off, which was responsible for the final development of the device with the partial funding of the European Union through a project for small and medium-sized enterprises (SME Instrument).

STAT-ON is a small sensor held in place with a specially designed belt. It constantly monitors patients’ motor status in everyday settings.

Current treatment of Parkinson’s is symptomatic, designed to compensate for the absence of certain neurotransmitters such as dopamine. After around two years of effective control using levodopa (the precursor to dopamine), fluctuations of around 50% appear in patients.

As a result, the motor symptoms of advanced Parkinson’s fluctuate several times a day in relation to levodopa levels. These are known as “on periods” and “off periods”, and they are the result of the availability or absence of dopamine in the brain. “On” periods typically begin soon after the patient has ingested medication, and they are generally when patients feel good and enjoy practical and normal control of movement. On the other hand, “off” periods are generally when motor symptoms appear, severely limiting many patients’ mobility and independence.

The treatment of advanced Parkinson’s focuses on controlling these fluctuations, but until now neurologists have found it difficult to correctly analyse them. It is common practice to ask patients to keep a diary and write down their clinical status every hour. This requires a significant time investment by the patient/caregiver and the resulting data is often somewhat unreliable, as it is often difficult for patients to recognise their own situation. In addition, motor problems often make it hard for patients to write.

Now, however, this device makes it easy to constantly monitor the on/off fluctuations experienced by patients under levodopa treatment for several years. It also monitors other motor symptoms experienced by the patient (bradykinesia, dyskinesia and freezing) in order to allow for much more precise treatment and significantly improve patients’ quality of life. These on/off fluctuations present significant challenges to patients’ clinical stability and control of the same through dosage adjustments. In addition, STAT-ON can monitor gait parameters, falls and other characteristics of movement that allow for improved management of the disease.

“The measurements and data provided by this Holter for Parkinson’s will help doctors make informed decisions and better manage the disease. It’s important to note that this device doesn’t provide a diagnosis, although the information it collects is extremely helpful to health professionals and allows them to precisely determine a patient’s status, notes Dr Àngels Bayés, from the Parkinson’s Unit at Centro Médico Teknon – Quirónsalud. Dr Bayés participated in the development of this new device.

Since every individual moves differently, the Holter is designed to adapt to each patient. To do so, it uses the information it initially receives from the patient and “learns” from their movement. Then, through artificial intelligence, it personalises the algorithms that it uses to register their motor symptoms. Once this step is completed, the Holter works autonomously and is very easy to use. While carried by the patient, it does not require any sort of activation or connection. “Since the device is non-invasive, patients can use it in their everyday lives and carry it on a comfortable, discreet belt while the Holter registers their motor status. Then, it generates a report on the patient’s motor status throughout the day”, adds Dr Joan Cabestany, a telecommunications engineer, UPC researcher and expert in artificial and electronic intelligence applied to dependency and active aging.

Seminar for patients and professionals

In order to raise awareness about this new tool, a seminar was organised for people with Parkinson’s and their families, as well as for neurologists and professionals interested in new technologies used to improve quality of life for these patients.

Dr Àngels Bayés and Dr Joan Cabestany explained how this innovative new device manages Parkinson’s disease. Plus, together with a patient with Parkinson’s, they presented its benefits in a debate with patients, allowing them to analyse a real-life experience with the device and its usability.