Parkinson’s Researcher Awarded $50,000 to Develop At-home System for Monitoring Movement Disability

Ana de Barros, PhD avatar

by Ana de Barros, PhD |

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Parkinson’s research funding

The Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CTSI) at Penn State awarded $50,000 to Harriet Nembhard, a professor of industrial engineering and director of the Penn State Center for Integrated Healthcare Delivery Systems, for new research involving the remote treatment and monitoring of people with Parkinson’s disease.

Professor Nembhard, who is heading a one-year project titled “Precision Health for Parkinson’s Disease: Advancing Translation with Medical Devices and Technology,” notes that Parkinson’s disease is costly both physically and financially, as it requires long-term treatment.  She and her team are working on ways of monitoring movement disorders so that clinicians can quickly detect signs of deterioration in Parkinson’s patients.

“If we are successful in this effort, it would be a tremendous asset in the arsenal to protect Parkinson’s patients against falls and support the ability of patients to remain living in their own home,” Professor Nembhard said in a news release.

Previously, Nembhard and colleagues developed a sensor-based monitoring system (PASS), and observed that gait abnormalities can be detected with the use of non-wearable sensors so as to allow clinicians to evaluate their patients’ adherence to medication and therapy protocols.

In the new project, the team will work to translate PASS technology into a functional tele-health system to remotely treat and monitor disease status and progression.

“The project will enhance the collaboration of engineers and medical professionals and will also engage industry experts — such as emergency medical responders — and health care professionals — such as physical therapists — as advisers at every phase of the treatment,” Professor Nembhard said.

In the U.S, estimates indicate that the direct and indirect cost of Parkinson’s disease, which includes treatment, Social Security support, and lost work income, is around $25 billion each year. “This research is an example of precision health and precision delivery. Organizations that can adapt these tools into their workflow may see both patient and financial benefits,” she said.

Nembhard’s proposal was one of the seven selected for the CTSI’s Bridges to Translation Pilot Project Funding, a program designed to fund groundbreaking research.