Could personalized medical treatment be a smartphone away?
Can an app analyze real time data from people with multiple sclerosis (MS) around the world?
A new smartphone app called myMS, is being tested for this very use.
The new software is the brainchild of , professor of neurology at , and division chief of the Neuroimmunology and USC Multiple Sclerosis Center.
It was designed to take medicine to the next level.
The app will be able to gather large amounts of significant medical data, integrate a patient’s MRIs, and connect with genetic information obtained through the personal genetics company, .
These tools, along with the ability to use the app anywhere and everywhere, will show how people with MS are doing in the comfort of their own homes, all day long and all year long.
The users of myMS will be able to monitor how they are doing through walking, cognitive and visual tasks, and responding to quality of life questionnaires.
The dashboard is designed to provide a sense of control for the person using the app by allowing them to view and graph their results over time. They will also be able to compare their progress to other people if they so choose.
“We want to see how patients are doing at home. This is how we are going to learn about this disease,” Pelletier told Healthline.
Helping with symptoms, memory
People with MS often experience a variety of random symptoms throughout the course of their lifetimes.
In addition, these symptoms may come and go with no warning.
One day a person may feel like a million bucks, and then the next day they feel debilitated.
In addition, MS has a tendency to affect memory, making recall difficult after one day, or even six months.
So when a neurologist sees a person with MS every six to 12 months, are they receiving accurate information?
Can a person with MS remember exactly how they felt a year earlier when they cannot remember what they had for dinner the night before?
Real time data gathered in the comfort of one’s own home is going to provide better information, but it’s not enough, according to Pelletier.
“Research is not moving fast enough because of traditional tracking methods,” he said.
He added that this “new app has a shot of changing the way we track a disease.”
App can help clinical trials
Clinical studies are continuing to show success in the world of MS, but the process is antiquated.
In today’s age of technology, not all clinical studies need to be restricted to those who can physically attend the trial or studies limited by the expense of adding more patients.
It is the size of studies that can really show whether or not a treatment might be an effective treatment.
Generally, a trial may have 300 to 600 patients, limited to those who live near the test location.
While this amount may be sufficient in showing statistically accurate test results, it’s a drop in the bucket when talking about a world with more than 2.5 million people with MS.
Imagine 50,000 MS patients in a trial, across the world, living normal lives while data is being recorded anonymously in real time, streaming back to medical professionals for analysis.
Now connect all of this data with genetic DNA across the world, and it is not difficult to imagine the possibilities of medical exploration and pursuing answers.
With regard to privacy, patients have a choice whether to share their information with others.
App studies beginning
Two are about to begin to test the new app.
Both are being held at USC and are approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB). All patients review and sign the consent form.
All patients are anonymous. People will have the choice to either share their data with only USC or a third party.
People with MS live with a lot of ups and down.
Pelletier emphasized the importance of real time data collected during the regular lives of patients vs. a 30-minute consultation with their neurologists once a year.
“This study is just the beginning for myMS. Our ultimate goal is for the app to go viral so we can collect data from people around the world. It could be a powerful tool to get us closer to personalized medicine and breakthrough discoveries,” Pelletier said.
Editor’s note: Caroline Craven is a patient expert living with MS. Her award winning blog is , and she can be found @thegirlwithms.