Apple devices, in tandem with digital apps, could detect early signs of Alzheimer's, dementia: study
Apple has long sunk its talons into the health care industry, having forged relationships with academia, drug/device makers and insurers. On Thursday, an early study suggested that a range of Apple devices in combination with digital applications could distinguish people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), mild Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and those without symptoms.
The 12-week study evaluated 113 participants, aged 60 to 75, in real-world settings to determine whether Apple devices (iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad and the Beddit sleep monitor) in combination with apps, were able to identify almost imperceptible cognitive and behavioral differences among the study participants with and without mild cognitive impairment.
The study was conducted by Apple, Eli Lilly and Evidation Health — a technology company that developed a platform to secure participants’ consent to collect and analyze 16 terabytes of data from sources including sensor data, questionnaires about mood and energy, and a digital assessment application that assessed psychomotor tasks.
“We know that insights from smart devices and digital applications can lead to improved health outcomes, but we don’t yet know how those resources can be used to identify and accelerate diagnoses,” said Nikki Marinsek, who is a data scientist at Evidation Health, in a statement. “The results of the trial set the groundwork for future research that may be able to help identify people with neurodegenerative conditions earlier than ever before.”
For Lilly $LLY, which has suffered a string of setbacks in Alzheimer’s disease much like its peers, the results are encouraging as researchers increasingly put their faith in theories that favor battling the disease at earlier stages for success. About 8 months ago, the Indianapolis-based drugmaker inked an up to $2 billion Alzheimer’s deal for tau therapies with Switzerland-based AC Immune.
Early in 2019, Apple $AAPL CEO Tim Cook predicted that in the future, his company’s greatest contribution will be its impact on health. The latest iteration of Apple Watch contains a simple electrocardiogram able to detect signs of atrial fibrillation (AFib) — a common heart condition that raises the risk of stroke and is typically seen in the elderly. While the FDA signed off on the sensor — Apple has been careful to underscore that the watch can’t diagnose anything or replace a doctor.
Meanwhile, the company has inked a number of deals in the healthcare industry, including joining forces with Johnson & Johnson $JNJ to test the diagnosis and outcomes of AFib patients in a clinical trial; last year it partnered with medical device maker Zimmer Biomet $ZBH in a bid to use the health data captured by the watch to determine why some patients recover faster from knee and hip replacements; and in 2017, the company tied up with Stanford University to evaluate previous editions of the watch in a large-scale heart study.