Intel develops devices for Parkinson's research

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The Michael J. Fox Foundation will fund an effort to equip Parkinson's disease patients around the U.S. with wearable devices designed and manufactured by the Intel Corporation in a partnership intended to advance research.
By Simon Smith | Nov 13, 2015
While the growing market for wearable consumer electronic devices expands, the microchip manufacturer Intel sets its sights on the more altruistic goal of applying the technology to advancing research on one of the most common debilitating neurological diseases in the U.S.

The tech giant announced Wednesday that it is partnering with the Michael J. Fox Foundation in an effort to provide wearable data collection devices to Parkinson's disease patients across the nation in an effort to collect data in a new way that better reflects the mechanical symptoms of the chronic condition. The devices will record data that will help doctors analyze and interpret hand tremors, gait abnormalities, and other common manifestations of the disease.

"Nearly 200 years after Parkinson's disease was first described by Dr. James Parkinson in 1817, we are still subjectively measuring Parkinson's disease largely the same way doctors did then," said Todd Sherer, CEO of The Michael J. Fox Foundation. "Data science and wearable computing hold the potential to transform our ability to capture and objectively measure patients' actual experience of disease, with unprecedented implications for Parkinson's drug development, diagnosis and treatment."

According to Intel's announcement, the chip maker will provide the devices and software while the Foundation will supply funding that will make it possible for patients to wear the devices and then have the data analyzed and interpreted by experts.

Recently, Intel has been looking more at applying wearable technology in the health sciences and leaving the consumer gadgetry to companies such as Google with its Android Wear smartwatch and Apple Computer, which is expected to answer with its own device shortly. A tangible commitment to Intel's research focus came earlier in the year when it acquired Basis Science, a manufacturer of health-oriented smartwatches. Intel has also invested in Thalmic Labs, a company developing human gesture control technology for computers, and Recon Instruments, which is working on heads-up displays.

Meanwhile, the software developers at Intel are diligently working to deliver ways in which the data from the wearable monitors may be best analyzed.

"We're exploring how to pull data out of devices in real-time," Ron Kasabian, general manager of Intel's Big Data Solutions group,told Reuters. "We can mine data to improve research, and better understand the behaviors and progression of the disease."


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