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CMSC INforMS: Scientists develop system for early diagnosis of Parkinson's, MS, and Alzheimer's

Friday, October 7, 2016  
Posted by: Elizabeth Porco
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Virtual reality diagnosis using a new mathematical model linked to balance can detect first signs of these disorders, it is claimed. 

Scientists from Tomsk Polytechnic University (TPU) and Siberian State Medical University are using common symptoms to spot the early stages of debilitating neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's, Multiple Sclerosis, and Alzheimer's.

A ten minute test aims to assess in a straightforward way a patient's proneness to such diseases. 

Using Google Glass and Kinect the Russian researchers have developed a model which aims to distinguish between healthy person's ability to adjust to a sloping virtual reality environment, and a person with the early stages of one of these diseases, who in all likelihood will not keep their balance. 

Early diagnosis is seen as crucial because by the time someone has lost enough nerve cells to detect a condition in themselves, it is too late to recover.

The system is being finessed after experimentation on 50 volunteers. 

Ivan Tolmachov, senior instructor at the TPU Department of Industrial and Medical Electronics, said: 'Our sense of balance and our movement are the responsibilities of a number of systems. 

'It is the vestibular apparatus - the inner ear and semicircular ducts - which determine our position in space and the direction of gravity. It is also muscular system and vision (which) helps us to monitor constantly the horizon. All these coordinated systems operate automatically. They falter if a person gets neurodegenerative diseases to develop, for example, Parkinson's disease.'

In order that a person can feel function loss, about 80% of related cells should be lost. But then there is no way back to recovery. 

'Therefore, it is so important to diagnosis the disease at early stages when patient can get help. Currently physicians use definite tests to detect neurodegenerative diseases but they are mostly based on visual assessment and there is a lack of instrumental and effective methods. PET scanning (Positron Emission Tomography) is available only in nine cities in Russia.'

He said: 'In the experiment, we tested how virtual reality influences people. The procedure took almost 10 minutes. The experiment engaged both healthy people and those in whom doctors had already been found disorders. 

'Currently we can't say if a person is healthy or not, nor make a diagnosis. But thanks to the system we can say how much his condition differs from a healthy person. We have also found out how people with different diseases react to a virtual environment. For instance, people with Parkinson's disease get hand tremor (quick, rhythmic limb movements).'

To complete the technical part of the project will take a year more. Then the system will pass clinical trials and required technical and toxicological certification.

'In future, the system will be used not only for disease diagnosis but for patient rehabilitation as well,' he said.

The Siberian Times

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