- Ballab Ghosh
- Science reporter
Motion capture suits that bring characters to life in movies like Avatar are helping researchers trace the onset of diseases that affect movement.
The new system uses artificial intelligence to analyze body movements.
In evidence from an investigation published in the Journal Natural MedicineUK experts measured the severity of two genetic disorders Twice as fast as specialist doctors In these conditions.
In many cases, early assessment of such movements makes it easier for the patient to receive appropriate support and treatment.
Researchers also say The time required to develop new drugs can be cut in half In clinical trials.
Dr Valeria Ricotti, from the Children’s Institute at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital, told the BBC she was “absolutely impressed with the results”.
“The impact on diagnosis and the development of new drugs for a wide range of diseases will be absolutely enormous,” he added.
Ricotti was part of a team of researchers from Imperial College and University College London who spent 10 years developing the new technology. Patients were tested Friedreich’s ataxia and Duchenne muscular dystrophy In two separate studies.
Researchers say it could also be used to monitor patients recovering from other diseases that affect movement. This includes Any condition involving the brain and nervous systemHeart, lungs, muscles, bones and persistent mental disorders.
Monitoring the severity and potential progression of such diseases typically involves measuring the speed and accuracy with which patients perform a series of standardized movements in a clinic setting. That assessment, vital to determining what support and treatment a patient needs, can take years.
Less time and less cost
Two recently published studies show that motion capture systems can do this very quickly and accurately. The system was adapted from the technology used to capture the motion of the actors in the Avatar movies to create lifelike aliens on screen.
Professor Alto Faisal of Imperial College, one of the scientists who proposed the idea, said it was a Great progress.
“Our new approach detects subtle movements that humans cannot detect,” he said. “It has the potential to transform clinical trials and improve diagnosis and patient follow-up.”
Friedreich’s ataxia usually appears and affects young adults One in 50,000Duchenne affects muscular dystrophy 20,000 children every year, mostly male, all over the world. There is currently no cure for either.
A team from Imperial College was the first to test motion-sensing suits on patients with Friedreich’s ataxia. They found that artificial intelligence could predict disease progression over 12 months. Half the time it usually takes an expert.
A separate team at Great Ormond Street Hospital tested the technology on 21 boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy aged 5 to 18. He predicts how his mobility will be affected six months into the future more accurately than a doctor.
The researchers believe the system could be used to speed up and reduce the cost of clinical trials to test new drugs in a wide range of conditions.
In particular, it could make trials of new drugs for rare genetic disorders more cost-effective.
Professor Paola Giundi, director of the Ataxia Center at the Global University of London, said: “We can test more drugs with fewer patients at a lower cost.”
In the case of Duchenne muscular dystrophy, at least 100 patients are needed over about 18 months to obtain statistically significant results about the efficacy of a new drug. The study showed that the application of the new method could be carried out with 15 patients for six months.
Around 6,000 rare genetic diseases affect 1 in 17 people in the UK. The number of patients with each disease may be a few hundred or less. This is an obstacle for pharmaceutical companies to conduct expensive clinical trials to develop new drugs for treatment.
Professor Richard Festenstein, from London’s Medical Research Council Institute of Medical Sciences, told the BBC that the suit technology he helped develop had the potential to change the economics of drug discovery.
This will attract the pharmaceutical industry to invest in rare diseases,” he said. “The main beneficiaries of our research will be patients, because the technology can develop new treatments much faster.”
Researchers are already seeking approval to use motion capture for drug trials for Friedreich’s ataxia and Duchenne muscular dystrophy, which will begin in two years. They are also collecting data for use in Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and erythema multiforme.
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