Sensory Pen for Early Diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease
Almost 127,000 people are diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease every year in the UK. Now, a Newcastle-based medical technology company, MANUS Neurodynamica Ltd, has developed an all-new revolutionary sensory ‘pen’ that allows for the early diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, and after five years of successful trials, offers hope for earlier intervention to those affected.
The unique sensory pen technology and software is sensitive to major neurological signs of the disease and has shown compelling results during five years of exploratory trials.
Assisted by a £178,000 late-stage industrial grant from the Technology Strategy Board and matched funding provided by private investment, the pen will embark upon its final stages of testing at North Tyneside Hospital, where Parkinson’s specialist Professor Richard Walker is working with Newcastle based MANUS to assess the use of the pen as a part of patient diagnosis.
Professor Richard Walker said, “Having a pen such as this means we can hopefully make a diagnosis of Parkinson’s earlier, and in those people with atypical symptoms and signs. Nothing can be done to stop disease progression but a great deal can be done to treat the symptoms. Some people may not have Parkinson’s and so diagnosing correctly will avoid inappropriate drug treatment.”
Using gold standard Parkinson’s DaTScan imaging technology, the pen will undergo clinical validation before MANUS take it to market. DaTScan is able to differentiate between Parkinson’s and other similar impairments by highlighting levels of dopamine in the brain, the deficiency of which causes common Parkinson’s symptoms such as tremors and rigidity. However, as DaTScan is expensive, requires specialist training to use and can be an unpleasant experience for patients, MANUS’s pen will provide a preferable, low-cost alternative for the future.
By analysing the control of motion in the nervous systems of patients, and comparing patients’ handwriting patterns to those of healthy subjects, the pen helps to determine if an individual is suffering from Parkinson’s or another neurological disorder.
Dr. Rutger Zietsma, Director of MANUS said, “The trials to date have shown clear differences between healthy controls, Parkinson’s sufferers and those with other neurological impairments. For instance, Parkinson’s sufferers move more slowly in tasks and their writing is significantly smaller, which is something that they don’t often notice themselves.”
Whilst the technological advancement of sensor and computer technology has allowed for simple assessments of the nervous system, there are huge technological challenges associated with developing a device that can accurately collect data and catalogue symptoms of such diseases.
Zietsma said, “The pen is a unique piece of medical technology that links ten years experimentation with sensor systems and developing data analysis methods with the key features of Parkinson’s. It’s fantastic to see all our resources in place to finalise the product, after having progressed from initial research through proof of concept stages for the diagnostic application, resulting in several prototypes and successful trials”.
The pen, which can detect Parkinson’s before the onset of obvious symptoms, will not only provide clinicians with a tool for earlier diagnosis and distinguish between differing disorders, but also assist in the continued monitoring of patients.
Zietsma said, “Although there is currently no cure, there are neuroprotective therapies in development and an early intervention will significantly improve patient care in the future, as protective and most likely regenerative treatment becomes available.”
MANUS is in active discussions to secure a £500,000 investment in order to extend their team, develop their business and take their pen technology to market. Their initial aim is to implement it in research clinics and alongside the pharmaceutical industry by 2015 to support the development of new drug therapies across Europe.
MANUS was initially assisted in 2008 by Enterprise Europe Network North East based at the Centre for Process Innovation, who helped them to secure a financial grant of £1.4 million from European sources. This grant enabled them, as a part of the Framework Programme Seven project DiPAR, to fully develop the pen device and software, and conduct initial clinical trials.
For more information about MANUS, please visit www.manusneuro.com