NUIG helps pioneer Parkinson’s device

Multidisciplinary project involves clinicians and engineers

NUI Galway (NUIG) and Galway-based manufacturing company M&M Qualtech are among 11 partners across Europe involved in the “personal health device for the remote and autonomous management of Parkinson’s disease” project, or “Rempark” for short.

NUI Galway (NUIG) and Galway-based manufacturing company M&M Qualtech are among 11 partners across Europe involved in the “personal health device for the remote and autonomous management of Parkinson’s disease” project, or “Rempark” for short.

 


GALWAY neurologists, physiologists, engineers and biomedical scientists are developing a “wearable” device which helps to manage motor fluctuations in people with Parkinson’s disease.

The €4.7 million project involves using electrical stimulation to manage the fluctuations, and aims to improve the quality of life for people diagnosed with the condition.

NUI Galway (NUIG) and Galway-based manufacturing company M&M Qualtech are among 11 partners across Europe involved in the “personal health device for the remote and autonomous management of Parkinson’s disease” project, or “Rempark” for short.

The portable system aims to identify the motor status of patients, guide them to walk more easily and deliver information to their medical care teams.

This “real time” data will help to inform and influence administration of medication where necessary, increasing its efficiency for longer periods, the research team says.

Ultimately, the team expects that it will improve management of the condition, thereby reducing the frequency of hospitalisation.

The team also hopes that it will improve medical knowledge about Parkinson’s generally, through “quantitative evaluation” of associated motor problems.

Approximately 8,000 people are living with Parkinson’s disease in Ireland, and it is classified as the second most common neurodegenerative condition after Alzheimer’s disease.

One of its main challenges is the motor fluctuations which patients experience.

These include “tremors, changes in walking speed, freezing of gait and falls,” explains NUIG professor of electrical engineering Gearóid Ó Laighin. The severity depends on the patient and on the stage of progression of the condition.

University Hospitals Galway (UHG) consultant neurologist Dr Tim Counihan says medication is used to mitigate these symptoms at the moment. Dr Counihan says neurologists try to set the medication dose to a level that can prevent “as much as possible” the presence of motor fluctuations.

“The problem that neurologists currently face is the lack of quantitative information on the intensity of the symptoms and their duration,” he says.

“Neurologists could manage the disease more effectively if this information was available, which we hope is what the Rempark project will deliver”.

NUIG and UHG are among four clinical partners providing opportunities for Parkinson’s disease patients to test and evaluate the system.