The research group Intelligent Data Analysis Laboratory from the School of Engineering Universitat de València (UV) and a team of scientists at the Faculty of Physiotherapy led by Professor Felipe Querol have set up an innovative project for monitoring the physical activity of people with haemophilia through individual devices with the purpose of developing patterns which help to improve their quality of life and treatments.
The research, in which 12 scientists will participate for two years, is funded by the pharmaceutical company Baxter, worldwide leader in therapies related to haemophilia, with the collaboration of the company Analog Devices, which has provided the project with accelerometers and modules that patients will wear to capture the information; and with La Fe Hospital.
This project consists in the incorporation of small devices called accelerometers to people suffering from haemophilia, concretely to a total of 20 patients, and a group of healthy people for two years. The accelerometers are placed on the wrist or in the clothes, with the purpose of registering pure signals (during daily life activities) which then, in the laboratory, "we can decipher and correlate with other studies, as thermic images of the joints, ultrasound imaging data, bioelectrical impedance, densitometry and variable forces, joint gestures and laboratory values, which enable us to know the plasma levels both of clotting factors and other parameters influencing people's health", explains University researcher Emilio Soria.
This work aims to elaborate knowledge patters and thus be able to monitoring physical activity of patients suffering from haemophilia, its impact in physical condition and its relation to the chronic haemophilic and the comorbidity derived from the current life expectancy", points out doctor Felipe Querol, Professor of the Department of Physiotherapy of the UV and associate doctor of La Fe Hospital.
To monitor the degree of fulfilment of the activity and its reflection on the improvement of the patients, this research "is going to have a direct impact on the health system, since haemophilia constitutes one of the most difficult diseases to treat and most expensive from the Health System", adds Querol, who recalls that reducing the influence on patients suffering from this disease can, in first place, improve their life quality and, in second place, "reduce the associated healthcare costs. The quality of life of these patients has improved in the last years thanks to the advances in new medicines and therapies but, what has been proved, is that this depends directly on the physical activity they carry out" he concludes.
Individualised microeletronic devices
The multinational Analog Devices (ADI), leader in the fabrication of microelectronic devices, with headquarters in Valencia, will provide state-of-the-art accelerators as well as supporting the development of the specific acquisition system for this application. These devices will enable the development of new algorithms to determine the kind of physic activity in development (walking, climbing stairs, etc.).
The accelerometers, sensors and ADI processers enable acquiring signals with high resolution, reliability and very low consumption which make them very suitable for portable medical systems. As Professor Javier Calpe, head of the Design Centre of Analog Devices in Valencia, indicates "the ADXL384 is a triaxial accelerometer with very low composition and high sensitivity". ADI's main objective is to develop integrated circuits for applications in the field of health both for diagnosis equipment and for personalised monitoring.
Specific research line
The Faculty of Physiotherapy of the UV has a research line in haemophilia and pays special attention to degree and postgraduate training of this pathology. The study of this disease provides improvements in the care of these patients as well as interesting advances in other extremely frequent pathologies such as arthrosis. The Department of Physiotherapy collaborates directly with the Haemostasis and Thrombosis Unit of the Polytechnic and University Hospital La Fe, which is a reference in this pathology and a highly regarded training centre recognised by the World Federation of Haemophilia. Foreign professionals systematically attend its courses to be trained in the diagnostic and treatment of this disease.
Haemophilia is a congenic disease, linked to the X chromosome, which is transmitted by women but suffered by men, and in which, as a consequence of a deficit of coagulation factors, haemorrhages are produced, which can only be stopped by the administration of the lacking factor. It is a rare disease, suffered only by 1-2 people out of 10.000 born alive and can appear without a family history of this complaint as a consequence of genetic mutations.
The most frequent haemorrhages are in joints, and when it occurs in people who are not under the suitable treatment it can cause, from an early age, a degenerative process known as haemophilic arthropathy. An 80% of the world population has no access to the hematologic treatment and their life expectancy is short and implies a physical disability. "To graphically express the joint problem, the knee of a 9-year-old child may seem the knee of an arthritic 80-year-old man and, unfortunately, this problem still exists", explains Felipe Querol.
This project is framed within what is known as 'Internet of Everything'; everything is currently interconnected, which enables extracting knowledge (in this case degree of fulfilment of the exercises) from the enormous amount of information available through different devices, in this case from wearables.