Parkinson’s disease is affecting 7 to 10 million patients worldwide with strongly increasing prevalence in Western societies. Patients suffer from a variety of symptoms (e.g. tremor, gait and speech impairment, cognitive decline), which differ widely between individuals and can vary over short periods of time. The cause of the disease is mostly unknown. Existing medications cannot stop disease progression, which highly varies from subject to subject, imposing major challenges for disease management as well as discovery of new medications. Digital technology (sensors, devices, smartphone based mobile health applications) currently attract a lot of attention, because digital measures derived from such technology has the potential to measure disease symptoms more objectively than established questionnaire based clinical assessments. In addition, such measures could be taken round the clock, increasing robustness. However, before moving into clinical practice digital technologies need to be evaluated carefully regarding the actual clinical benefit.

© Fraunhofer SCAI

In this context the DIGIPD project has three major aims:

  1. To evaluate modern digital technology measuring impairment of gait, voice and face movement (also outside clinics) with respect to more accurate diagnosis of symptoms and to prediction of disease progression.
  2. To disentangle the relationship of digital measures to established clinical questionnaires and to molecular biomarkers.
  3. To clarify the ethical and legal situation regarding the use of sensitive patient-level data and Artificial Intelligence. In particular, this will involve patients via dedicated interviews.

The outcome of DIGIPD could help physicians to adapt and optimize their treatment. Moreover, pharmaceutical companies could use a grouping of patients with similar progression of the disease to increase the chances of clinical trials bringing new and better drugs to the market. Finally, the clarification of the ethical and legal situation is an asset for the entire field of precision medicine in the future.

© Fraunhofer SCAI

Funding Reference

The project "Validating DIGItal biomarkers for better personalized treatment of Parkinson’s Disease (DIGIPD)" is funded within the framework of the European ERA network on Personalised Medicine (ERA PerMed). DIGIPD is part of the Joint Transnational Call 2020 "Multidisciplinary Research Projects on Personalised Medicine - Pre-clinical Research, Big data and ICT, Implementation and User's Perspective". Funding for the German part of the project is provided by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).