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How the Xbox Kinect can help patients with MS: VIDEO

Most of us are content to use our games consoles to, er, play games, but staff at Microsoft Research in Cambridge have repurposed the Xbox to help the fight against multiple sclerosis.

The researchers have teamed up with drug company Novartis to deploy the Xbox's Kinect movement sensor system to analyse patients.

Novartis had long been looking for a way to quantify whether the treatments it is developing for multiple sclerosis are working, but assessing whether a patient's symptoms are stabilizing or getting worse is complicated. To this end the Swiss-based firm developed a standard set of tests, Assess MS, where a patient is asked to touch their nose or sit with their arms outstretched. Doctors watch them and use a rating scale to determine how strong the symptoms are.

The problem with this set-up is that it's inherently subjective, relying on the doctor's judgement.

"The clinicians that we worked with really care about their patients. They really want what's best for them, and even the best neurologist will admit that when they use these rating scales, it's pretty coarse-grained," said Abigail Sellen, a principal researcher in the human experience and design group at Microsoft's Cambridge lab.

"They know that there's a lot of variability, even in their own judgments, over time. But what you don't want to do with these systems is replace the expert. You want to bolster the expert

"What we're doing is giving them a set of data that they can then weave into their judgment."

The solution Microsoft Research staff came up with is a machine learning algorithm based on the Kinect system, which itself was developed in Cambridge five years ago. The patient wears the Kinect during testing and the system assesses their results.

It has been two years in the making, and the researchers say they have developed a proof of concept, using a limited number of patients, so they know the system works in principal. The next step is to test Assess MS in practice, so they can see how it works with a broader number of patients. It is hoped Novartis and other pharmaceutical companies can use Assess MS to speed up clinical trials for multiple sclerosis, and perhaps, eventually, for other, similar diseases.

"Novartis is leveraging digital technologies to transform patient care and drug development," said Vas Narasimhan, global head of development at Novartis Pharmaceuticals.

"We are excited about our collaboration with Microsoft Research to develop Assess MS, a more consistent way to measure motor dysfunctions caused by multiple sclerosis, which could lead to the development of better therapies and care for patients."

Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by CAMBRIDGENEWS
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length


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