New tool gives hope to people with MS

By Jo Makosinski | Published: 27-Sep-2023

Leeds medics develop motion detector to drive improvements in care for patients with neurodegenerative conditions

Clinicians and researchers at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust have invented a new motion detection tool to help identify potentially life-changing treatments for progressive multiple sclerosis and other neurodegenerative conditions.

The pioneering project is a collaboration between Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, a leading UK centre for developing new treatments for MS, and the departments of psychology and engineering at the University of Leeds.

The long-term condition affects the brain and spinal cord, causing problems with vision, movement, sensation, and balance and there are  currently no treatments that stop its progression.

The kinematic tool measures upper limb function by using 3D motion technology to capture finger and wrist markers as patients pick up, move, and place objects across a board.

An evaluation led by clinical research fellow Linford Fernandes, a neurology registrar at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, and funded by Leeds Hospitals Charity, found the tool can be used to detect progression in dysfunction sooner than current clinical measures.

Professor Helen Ford, consultant neurologist and the research lead for neurosciences at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “We see the device as having significant applications in both research trials and clinical settings.

“We are doing more trials with people with progressive MS and having a sensitive measure of arm function, cognition, and thinking is becoming more important. This is especially so if the drugs we are using are shown to be effective because it refines the outcomes.

“The tool could also be really useful for rehabilitation as well as it provides a much better understanding of arm function and physiotherapists and occupational therapists can monitor improvement, deterioration, and the value of different approaches.

“And, because the device is not specific to MS, it could have relevance to other neurodegenerative conditions such as motor neurone disease or Parkinson’s.”

Professor Ford is now working with University of Leeds to develop the tool further and apply it to a larger population of patients.

And it is hoped it can be used as a sub-study of the huge new Octopus trial to find new ways to treat progressive MS.

This multi-arm, multi-stage platform trial is designed to transform the testing of new treatments and could deliver them up to three times faster.

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust is set to become the first regional hub to open for Octopus and will work in collaboration with clinical researchers at hospitals in Bradford, Hull, Sheffield, and York.

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