EU researchers collaborate in pioneering bid to stall mobility loss
“And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”
A reminder to live your life to the fullest, this famous adage by American hero Abraham Lincoln always strikes a chord in anyone. And of course it would.
Because unless we’re able to leave behind a lasting legacy like Lincoln did, we have no way of gaining back the years in our lives that have long passed. A hotly debated topic, immortality remains today a pipe dream of scientists – at this stage, although life expectancy rates have increased the world over, there remains absolutely no way of living forever.
And skeptics say this isn’t going to ever change.
But thankfully, there are some things that science can (and soon will) be able to improve: ie. the number of healthy years we’ll have throughout our lives. At a time when many developed economies across the world (Japan, Italy and Germany to name a few) are facing an ageing nation crisis, developments in this space are more than welcome.
In Europe, people over the age of 65 make up more than 19 percent of the population, a figure that will only continue to rise.
However, a longer life doesn’t necessarily mean a healthy life. Many suffer from mobility loss as a result of old age or chronic health conditions, conditions they only discovered when it was too late.
Treating impaired mobility caused by ageing and chronic diseases is among the 21st century’s toughest challenges.
But a collective of university and industry clinicians and scientists across Europe have formed a consortium that aims to do just that. Through collaborative research, they are developing a system of sensors to be worn on the body that will monitor and assess a person’s gait as they go about their daily routines. The primary goal is to “develop, validate, and ensure regulation of better mobility outcomes.”
Why their gait? The belief is that a person’s mobility (how you walk) is considered the “sixth vital sign” of health. Poor gait, especially walking slowly, is often associated with earlier death, greater risk of disease, cognitive decline, dementia and an increased risk of falls.
With the use of digital technology, the consortium called Mobilise-D will revolutionise the assessment of mobility loss, leading to enhanced clinical trials and better clinical management.
They will focus on digital mobility assessment for the analysis and treatment of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, hip fracture recovery, (Proximal Femoral Fracture, PFF), and congestive heart failure.
Further to that, Mobilise-D will develop all-encompassing, clinically-valid digital mobility assessment system capable of use across all conditions where mobility loss is relevant.
The results of the project will directly lead to drug development and establish a roadmap for clinical implementation of new and complementary tools to help identify, categorise and monitor disability in patients. This will, in turn, enable widespread and more importantly, cost-effective access to managing conditions clinically through personalised healthcare.
The project, to be led Newcastle University, has received an EUR50 million injection from the European Innovative Medicines Initiative. The university will work closely with lead industry partner Novartis, as well as other companies from the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA). In total, the project includes some 34 international research partners based at leading international universities and some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical and technical companies.
“Digital technology, including sensors worn on the body, have the potential to transform how we assess mobility and identify life-changing conditions. This will enable medical teams to intervene earlier and offer treatment to extend healthy life,” says Professor Lynn Rochester, Professor of Human Movement Science at Newcastle University who is coordinating the Mobilise-D consortium.
“Our ultimate goal is to provide a validated, robust set of algorithms to measure digital mobility outcomes and in turn, inform therapeutic development, clinical practice, precision medicine, industrial development and stakeholder approval,” she adds.
Noting that Mobilise-D’s discoveries will lead to further development of new tools to monitor disability in patients, Ronenn Roubenoff, Global Translational Medicine Head, Musculoskeletal Disease at Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, said:
”A key immediate impact will be on the design of clinical trials for novel treatment development, supporting better patient inclusion & stratification, more sensitive clinical outcomes, a potential correlation of real-world patient-reported outcome for evidence-based healthcare.
“Mobilise-D will also bring the key ingredient needed for any medical technology to blossom: standardisation, in turn stimulating development of novel solutions,” added Roubenoff who serves as the industry project lead of Mobilise-D.