Researchers at the University of Sheffield have been awarded 2.1 million euros in funding to help develop technology to monitor how well people walk – a vital sign of health and wellbeing.
The project, which also includes researchers from Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, is developing a system that uses small sensors worn on the body so how well people walk can easily be monitored and assessed by doctors and health professionals.
Mobility – how well someone walks – is considered the sixth vital sign of health. This is because poor gait, especially walking slowly, is associated with earlier death, greater risk of disease, cognitive decline, dementia and an increased risk of falls.
In the EU, people over the age of 65 make up more than 19 per cent of the population, a figure projected to rise significantly. Increasing life expectancy, coupled with the number of people living with chronic health conditions, means that more people are coping with mobility loss.
Better treatment of impaired mobility resulting from ageing and chronic disease is one of the 21st century’s greatest challenges facing patients, society, governments, healthcare services and science.
New interventions are a key focus but, to accelerate their development, better methods are needed to predict, detect and measure mobility loss.
Funded by the European Innovative Medicines Initiative 2 Joint Undertaking – a public-private partnership that funds health research and innovation – the research is part of a pioneering European project named MOBILISE-D, which aims to revolutionise assessment of mobility loss using digital technology. This could lead to enhanced clinical trials and better clinical management.
The project will enable clinicians and scientists from academic centres across Europe to collaborate with companies from the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) – the goal is to develop, validate, and ensure regulation of better mobility outcomes.
The project includes 34 international research partners based at leading international universities and some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical and technical companies.
The Insigneo Institute – Europe’s largest research institute dedicated entirely to the development, validation and use of in silico medicine, which is led by the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, is among the main beneficiaries of the funding awarded.
Insigneo’s Director, Claudia Mazzà, a Professor in Biomechanics at the University of Sheffield’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, is set to lead the development of the digital technology. Professor Mazzà also leads the in silico medicine research for the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Sheffield Biomedical Research Centre.
Co-investigators in the project are Professor Fabio Ciravegna and Dr Vitaveska Lanfranchi from the University’s Department of Computer Science.
Professor Claudia Mazzà, said: “MOBILISE-D is the product of a long-standing multidisciplinary collaboration between researchers at the Insigneo Institute for in silico Medicine and the NIHR Sheffield Biomedical Research Centre. It marks a fantastic opportunity for the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Teaching Hospital to contribute to a technology-based revolution in clinical management and personalised healthcare, with a local focus on Multiple Sclerosis.”
Professor Basil Sharrack, from the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN) and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, will lead the clinical validation in Multiple Sclerosis, in line with ongoing collaborative activities within the NIHR Sheffield Biomedical Research Centre.
MOBILISE-D will focus on digital mobility assessment being recognized 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.
This project has received funding from the Innovative Medicines Initiative 2 Joint Undertaking under grant agreement No 820820. The Joint Undertaking receives support from the Europeans Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and EFPIA.