According to the Epilepsy Foundation, it is the fourth most-common neurological disorder, affecting more than 3.4 million people in the U.S. alone. It results in recurrent, unprovoked seizures, which can present in different forms and with varying intensity. The seizures are caused by electrical events that start in the brain, but can affect muscles and other parts of the body. While healthcare professionals have ways to diagnose and treat the disorder, we still have a lot more to learn about it.
The international pharma company UCB specializes in neurology and immunology. As a result, epilepsy is one of the conditions that the company targets. UCB recently launched a partnership with the Belgian-American startup, Byteflies. The companies will work together to gather rich and detailed data from patients with epilepsy, with the goal of gaining a deeper understanding of the disorder. At the heart of the project is the Sensor Dot from Byteflies. This is a small, battery-powered device that is about the size of a quarter. It can be worn on the subject’s wrist, or other parts of the body. The key feature is the presence of multiple sensors. The Dot detects motion and heart rate, much like other devices, but it also can track respiration, muscle activity (EMG), electrodermal activity (EDA), and electrocardiogram (ECG) data. Furthermore, multiple DOTs can communicate with each other and sync using wireless Bluetooth technology, so data can be collected from multiple locations on a subject’s body at the same time, without the need for bulky and uncomfortable wires.
The Dot is designed to store up to 2 GB of raw data, so the device can be worn for an extended period before the data needs to be transferred. This approach is well suited for intermittent and unpredictable episodes, such as seizures, making it more likely that the sensors will “catch” the data when one occurs. The multi-modal sensors will also give researchers valuable inter-related data that is likely to yield more insights than just heart rate or just motion tracking might offer. This sort of device is likely to play a growing role in healthcare, as we start to routinely monitor our bodies for early signs of disease and other conditions so that they can be addressed before they become more serious and difficult to treat.