Ground-breaking digital monitoring project could help prevent diseases

  • University of Sheffield researchers awarded funding to develop technology to monitor how well people walk – a vital sign of health and wellbeing
  • System will use small sensors worn on the body so doctors and health professionals can easily monitor how well people walk
  • Mobility – how well someone walks – is considered the sixth vital sign of health
  • The new research is part of a pioneering European project bringing together leading international universities and the world’s largest pharmaceutical and technical companies

A lady being monitored with the new technology

Researchers at the University of Sheffield have been awarded 2.1 million euros in funding to help develop technology to monitor how well people walk – a vital sign of health and wellbeing.

The project, which also includes researchers from Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, is developing a system that uses small sensors worn on the body so how well people walk can easily be monitored and assessed by doctors and health professionals.

Mobility – how well someone walks – is considered the sixth vital sign of health. This is because poor gait, especially walking slowly, is associated with earlier death, greater risk of disease, cognitive decline, dementia and an increased risk of falls.

In the EU, people over the age of 65 make up more than 19 per cent of the population, a figure projected to rise significantly. Increasing life expectancy, coupled with the number of people living with chronic health conditions, means that more people are coping with mobility loss.

Better treatment of impaired mobility resulting from ageing and chronic disease is one of the 21st century's greatest challenges facing patients, society, governments, healthcare services and science.

New interventions are a key focus but, to accelerate their development, better methods are needed to predict, detect and measure mobility loss.

Funded by the European Innovative Medicines Initiative 2 Joint Undertaking – a public-private partnership that funds health research and innovation – the research is part of a pioneering European project named MOBILISE-D, which aims to revolutionise assessment of mobility loss using digital technology. This could lead to enhanced clinical trials and better clinical management.

The project will enable clinicians and scientists from academic centres across Europe to collaborate with companies from the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) – the goal is to develop, validate, and ensure regulation of better mobility outcomes.

The project includes 34 international research partners based at leading international universities and some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical and technical companies.

The Insigneo Institute – Europe’s largest research institute dedicated entirely to the development, validation and use of in silico medicine, which is led by the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, is among the main beneficiaries of the funding awarded.

Insigneo’s Director, Claudia Mazzà, a Professor in Biomechanics at the University of Sheffield’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, is set to lead the development of the digital technology. Professor Mazzà also leads the in silico medicine research for the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Sheffield Biomedical Research Centre.

Co-investigators in the project are Professor Fabio Ciravegna and Dr Vitaveska Lanfranchi from the University’s Department of Computer Science.

Professor Claudia Mazzà, said: “MOBILISE-D is the product of a long-standing multidisciplinary collaboration between researchers at the Insigneo Institute for in silico Medicine and the NIHR Sheffield Biomedical Research Centre. It marks a fantastic opportunity for the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Teaching Hospital to contribute to a technology-based revolution in clinical management and personalised healthcare, with a local focus on Multiple Sclerosis.”

Professor Basil Sharrack, from the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN) and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, will lead the clinical validation in Multiple Sclerosis, in line with ongoing collaborative activities within the NIHR Sheffield Biomedical Research Centre.

MOBILISE-D will focus on digital mobility assessment being recognized for the analysis and treatment of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, hip fracture recovery (Proximal Femoral Fracture, PFF) and congestive heart failure.

This project has received funding from the Innovative Medicines Initiative 2 Joint Undertaking under grant agreement No 820820. The Joint Undertaking receives support from the Europeans Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and EFPIA.

For more information on the MOBILISE-D project, visit: www.mobilise-d.eu

For more details on the Innovative Medicines Initiative, visit: www.imi.europa.eu

For more information on the Insigneo Institute for in silico Medicine, visit: https://insigneo.org/

For more details on the NIHR Sheffield Biomedical Research Centre, visit: http://sheffieldbrc.nihr.ac.uk/

Additional information

The Insigneo Institute for in silico Medicine’s Annual Showcase event will be held on 17 May 2019 at the Octagon Centre, at the University of Sheffield. This event is an opportunity to see first-hand the latest innovations in personalised, predictive medicine produced by the Institute including commercial applications and developments from industrial partners. Register: https://insigneo.org/is2019/

The Insigneo Institute for in silico Medicine

The Insigneo Institute for in silico Medicine is a collaborative initiative between the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. It is a multidisciplinary collaboration between over 150 academics and clinicians to develop computer simulations of the human body and its disease processes that can be used directly in clinical practice to improve diagnosis and treatment.

In silico medicine (also known as "computational medicine") is the application of in silico research to problems involving health and medicine. It is the direct use of computer simulation in the diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of a disease. More specifically, in silico medicine is characterised by modelling, simulation, and visualisation of biological and medical processes in computers with the goal of simulating real biological processes in a virtual environment. This is almost certainly the most sophisticated application of computing technology in healthcare, and Sheffield has become the UK’s principal centre for this work. Insigneo performs cutting-edge research in areas of fundamental and applied biomedical modelling, imaging and informatics, as it pursues the research agenda of the Virtual Physiological Human initiative.

The Institute’s work will bring about a transformational change in healthcare through multidisciplinary collaborations across many strategic areas, which will include personalised diagnosis and treatment and improvements in independent, active and healthy ageing. For more information please visit: www.insigneo.org or contact news@insigneo.org

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is the nation's largest funder of health and care research. The NIHR:

  • Funds, supports and delivers high quality research that benefits the NHS, public health and social care
  • Engages and involves patients, carers and the public in order to improve the reach, quality and impact of research
  • Attracts, trains and supports the best researchers to tackle the complex health and care challenges of the future
  • Invests in world-class infrastructure and a skilled delivery workforce to translate discoveries into improved treatments and services
  • Partners with other public funders, charities and industry to maximise the value of research to patients and the economy

The NIHR was established in 2006 to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research, and is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care. In addition to its national role, the NIHR commissions applied health research to benefit the poorest people in low- and middle-income countries, using Official Development Assistance funding.

The University of Sheffield

With almost 29,000 of the brightest students from over 140 countries, learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe, the University of Sheffield is one of the world’s leading universities.

A member of the UK’s prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, Sheffield offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.

Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in.

Sheffield is the only university to feature in The Sunday Times 100 Best Not-For-Profit Organisations to Work For 2018 and for the last eight years has been ranked in the top five UK universities for Student Satisfaction by Times Higher Education.

Sheffield has six Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and its alumni go on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.

Global research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, AstraZeneca, Glaxo SmithKline, Siemens and Airbus, as well as many UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.

Contact

For further information please contact:

Sean Barton
Media Relations Officer
University of Sheffield
0114 222 9852
s.barton@sheffield.ac.uk