A wearable motion capture suit and machine learning predict disease progression in Friedreich's ataxia

Current gold-standard clinical scales in FA use simplistic behavioral assessments, which require 18- to 24-month-long trials to determine if therapies are beneficial. Here the author captured full-body movement kinematics from patients with wearable sensors, enabling them to define digital behavioral features based on the data from nine FA patients (six females and three males) and nine age- and sex-matched controls, who performed the 8-m walk (8-MW) test and 9-hole peg test (9 HPT). Machine learning was used to combine these features to longitudinally predict the clinical scores of the FA patients, and compared these with two standard clinical assessments, Spinocerebellar Ataxia Functional Index (SCAFI) and Scale for the Assessment and Rating of Ataxia (SARA). The digital behavioral features enabled longitudinal predictions of personal SARA and SCAFI scores 9 months into the future and were 1.7 and 4 times more precise than longitudinal predictions using only SARA and SCAFI scores, respectively. Unlike the two clinical scales, the digital behavioral features accurately predicted FXN gene expression levels for each FA patient in a cross-sectional manner. This work demonstrates how data-derived wearable biomarkers can track personal disease trajectories and indicates the potential of such biomarkers for substantially reducing the duration or size of clinical trials testing disease-modifying therapies and for enabling behavioral transcriptomics.

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