New Leeds technology gives hope to people with MS

Clinicians and researchers at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust have invented a new motion detection tool to help identify potentially life-changing treatments for neurodegenerative conditions.

The kinematic tool measures upper limb function by using 3D motion technology to capture finger and wrist markers as patients pick up, move and place objects across a board.

The pioneering project is a collaboration between Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and the University of Leeds’ School of Psychology and School of Engineering.

The long-term condition affects the brain and spinal cord, causing problems with vision, movement, sensation and balance. Currently, there are no treatments that stop its progression.

Professor Helen Ford, Consultant Neurologist, Honorary Clinical Associate Professor in the Faculty of Medicine and Health and Clinical Lead for the West Yorkshire Multiple Sclerosis Treatment Programme at Leeds Teaching Hospitals said:

“Our research is really motivating. It gives hope to patients who are living with a condition that is incurable. We find that people with MS are incredibly altruistic. Even though they know that emerging treatments might not help them, they might benefit others in the future.”

Professor Ford is working with the University of Leeds to develop the tool further and apply it to a larger population of patients. It is hoped the tool can be used as a sub-study of the huge new Octopus trial to find new ways to treat progressive MS.

“The tool could also be really useful for rehabilitation as well as it provides a much better understanding of arm function. Physiotherapists and occupational therapists can monitor improvement, deterioration and the value of different approaches. And because the device is not specific to MS, it could have relevance to other neurodegenerative conditions such as motor neurone disease or Parkinson’s”, Helen adds. 

Christine Clemmens, a 65-year-old from Leeds, is the first MS patient to participate in the Octopus trial. She is taking a five-year drug treatment that aims to slow the development of primary progressive MS and secondary progressive MS.

The retired nurse and midwife said, “If it does not help me, it could help somebody else. If it helps somebody else, it gives them hope. I have never been able to have treatment for my MS but the thought of having it would be lovely. I do hope that this drug trial slows the progression of my MS so that I can maintain my limited mobility and continue use of my hands for longer.”

There are an estimated 130,000 people with MS in the UK with 7,000 people newly diagnosed with the condition every year, according to the MS Society.