New research from the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust have come up with a new method for monitoring how MS patients walk.

The researchers from the University and the Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust have developed an algorithm that, when paired with wearable sensors, provides more informative and effective monitoring of the way MS patients walk in real life.

Assessing the way a person walks (gait) is often used as an indicator in the early stages of MS. Until now, gait analysis was only carried out in laboratories, so doctors at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals approached researchers at the University of Sheffield and asked them to help find a way to measure how patients walk in ‘real life.’

A researcher at the University of Sheffield, Dr Claudia Mazzà said that measurements of people with MS in a laboratory setting aren’t necessarily an accurate representation of their condition and that data from real life scenarios will help clinicians analyse a patient’s condition more accurately, which, in turn, will lead to better treatment.

Dr Mazzà added: “We started off by checking that our portable sensor was accurate, comfortable and able to give the same results as a lab-based sensor. We then developed an algorithm (computer program) specific to the patient’s condition (in this case MS) which processed the measurements taken from this sensor.”

In addition, Dr Sivaraman Nair, Consultant Neurologist at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, said that the research could be applied in other conditions that monitor gait such as Parkinson’s disease.

Dr Nair continued: “Assessing the changes in the way patients with MS walk is key to understanding the progression of disability. It is particularly important to look at these indicators at an early stage as it can also tell us about the effectiveness of the medication they are taking.

“Currently, mobility of MS patients is assessed in specialised gait laboratories. The relevant technologies can be expensive and require highly skilled personnel. The impact of this research could therefore be significant for patients as well as cost-effective.”

The next stage of the research will involve working with the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Sheffield Biomedical Research Centre (for Translational Neuroscience) to conduct a larger clinical study.

In addition, Innovative Medicine Initiative and pharmaceutical companies are investing €50 million in research linking digital assessment of mobility to clinical endpoints to support regulatory acceptance and clinical practice.

The website for the University of Sheffield is HERE

The website for Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation trust is HERE

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