Pioneering Yorkshire technology could help improve MS treatments

Pioneering research by academics in Sheffield into 'real life' monitoring of how multiple sclerosis affects how a person walks could have a the potential to help people with a range of conditions, including Parkinson's Disease.

Assessing gait is a tool used in MS diagnosis. Picture: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos.

The effectiveness of treatments and disease progression could be better monitored using the algorithm developed by researchers at the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, researchers say.

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When paired with wearable sensors, it allows data to be collected on how a patients walks in “real life” - something that is usually only carried out in laboratories. That could change after doctors at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals approached the University to help find a way to measure how patients walk in everyday conditions. Assessing gait is often used as an indicator in the early stages of MS, which affects 100,000 people in the UK - over 75 per cent of which have mobility problems.

Dr Claudia Mazzà, a researcher based at the Insigneo Institute for in silico Medicine at the University, said: “The measurements we take of people with MS in a lab may not be an accurate representation of their everyday condition. Having data from real life scenarios will help clinical staff assess a patient’s condition more accurately. For patients this will mean better treatment as a result of clinicians being more informed about their condition.”

Head of care and services research at the MS Society, Imogen Scott Plummer, said: “Being able to monitor mobility with wearable tech as accurately as you could in a lab is a great step forwards – and could be a really useful tool for people with MS and the healthcare professionals treating them. For example by adding information to a clinical trial, or helping us understand how well a drug works.”