A European digital health project that develops new tools to help patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and multiple sclerosis
BRAINTEASER mid-term workshop took place on 28 February 2023 in the prestigious location of the University of Padua Botanical Garden, Italy and was attended by almost 80 participants.
The organization of the event came at the end of the first phase of the project and served as the basis for the launch of the second phase or ‘pilot phase’, which focuses on transforming the current approach to health from a reactive to a predictive system focused on risk forecast, patient stratification and prognosis.
The workshop was opened by Professor Barbara Di Camillo of the University of Padua (IT), who also holds the role of scientific coordinator of the BRAINTEASER project. After a brief introduction about the project’s design, aims, methodology and field of application, the floor was left to two institutional representatives who invited the audience to a reflection on the importance of the scientific research and its benefits for the society as a whole.
In particular, Dr. Fabrizio Cobis, Director of Office II « Incentives and support for the competitiveness of the private production system and public/private cooperation at national level» – Directorate-General for Research, Italian Ministry for University and Research, gave a glance on the Mission 6 of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan devoted to the Health sector, with a view to identifying the opportunities that arise from it and the related strategic lines of use of the funds envisaged by the Next Generation EU Programme. During his presentation, he particularly stressed how research is essential for advancement and progress in almost any field of human endeavor.
“Innovation, particularly in the medical field, serves to improve people’s lives and BRAINTEASER is a clear example of this important research mission. Today’s presentations of both the technological solutions to support care and the treatment protocols tested within the pilot sites of the project enrich me with new knowledge and hope for a better lifestyle for patients affected by such relevant diseases.”
In his intervention, Prof. Fabio Zwirner, Prorector for Research at the University of Padua, has underlined the University of Padua’s commitment in the EU and international collaborative research and how much the University perceives the importance of an open science approach to innovation.
“Promoting a global approach for knowledge sharing and community building facilitate the definition of a roadmap of research and intervention priorities to accelerate science.”
The BRAINTEASER EU project’s officer, Prof. Claudia Prettner, who joined the workshop remotely, contextualized the work ongoing in the BRAINTEASER project in the framework of the European Health and Digital Executive Agency (HaDEA) mission and actions. During her presentation, she underlined the importance of collaborative and transformative research as well as cross-fertilisation between projects and initiatives that insist on the same scope to strengthen Europe’s capacity to become healthier, more resilient, equitable and competitive.
After this introductory session, the workshop got to the heart of the project’s activities, giving way to presentations of the clinical approach promoted by BRAINTEASER and of the supporting technological applications.
The BRAINTEASER clinical perspective and pilots’ action was introduced to the audience by two leading clinicians’ part of the project’s consortium. Main take away messages from Prof. Mamede de Carvalho, Group leader at the Instituto De Medicina Molecular João Lobo Antunes – iMM (PT), and Prof. Adriano Chiò, University of Turin full professor of neurology and Director of Neurology 1 at the Molinette hospital of the City of Health in Torin (IT), have been, respectively.
“The midterm Brainteaser meeting has shown the importance of telematic monitoring Neurological patients’ wellbeing, permitting a closer follow-up by the medical team favoring prompt timely intervention. Artificial intelligence will provide the tools for rapid interpretation of multidimensional continuous data, then deriving a brief and efficient diagnostic process and optimal management. In the future other disabling diseases and Clinical Trials will benefit from these advances.”
“The BRAINTEASER project, which arrived at half of its path, is providing innovative approaches to the home care of persons with ALS, while supporting and reassuring caregivers in daily life. Providing innovative, cost-effective, and flexible technological devices for a continuous assessment of patients will allow a strict attention to patients’ need and to their physical and psychological problems, and a strict and continuous control of their clinical status. In addition, during the project a wealth of data is being collected. These data will be analyzed with the most advanced techniques of artificial intelligence allowing a better understanding of the heterogeneity of the disease progression. In summary, BRAINTEASER has the potential to offer novel instruments aimed at modifying for better the quality of life and the care of persons with ALS.”
Vladimir Urošević, Research & Development Manager at Belit Ltd. Belgrade (SR), and Sergio Gonzalez, researcher at Life Supporting Technologies Group (LifeSTech) in Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (SP), presented the two main BRAINTEASER technological instruments conceived to improve care and assistance services for the benefit of the various players in the health system.
Both tools, a web platform, for healthcare professionals, and a mobile application (app) for patients and those who assist them, vary according to the needs of patients and the type of disease they are suffering from.
The web platform hosts clinical tools that healthcare professionals can use, especially for patient management and routine visits. The tools collect data on the health status of patients and support professionals through alerts and notifications. Doctors can view patient-reported data on their mobile phone and suggest new activities or schedule visits.
The app, that has been presented with a live demo, aims to help patients and caregivers to report symptoms to the doctor, receive notifications, read educational content, participate in recommended activities for the promotion of general well-being. Each interaction is personalized based on the patient’s symptoms and status. This means that patients and caregivers can receive different types of information and advice, tailored to their specific needs.
After a lively session dedicated to Q&A, the workshop has been closed by Prof. Di Camillo.
“Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and multiple sclerosis are chronic diseases, involving progressive impairment of neurological functions or alternating phases of the disease. Patients therefore have to manage an alternation of periods of hospitalization and home care, experiencing constant uncertainty about the timing of the acute phases of the disease and facing a considerable psychological and economic burden, which also involves their caregivers. Doctors, for their part, need tools capable of supporting them in all phases of treatment, suggesting personalized therapeutic decisions and indicating urgent and necessary interventions. To this end, software and apps developed so far within the BRAINTEASER project are characterized by an agile and user-centred approach, which takes into account the technical, medical, psychological and social needs that emerged during the study phase, in order to improve quality of care and assistance to patients and, ultimately, their quality of life.”
The next goal of the project is to learn from the information that will emerge from the pilot sites that are currently using the app and web platform (four hospitals in three different European countries) to improve these support and assistance tools.
BRAINTEASER is a project that the European Brain Council is part of. It is funded by the European Horizon 2020 program, which intends to exploit the value of clinical data, completely anonymized and integrated with personal and environmental data collected through smartwatches and low-cost environmental sensors. BRAINTEASER uses this data to develop clinical software and mobile applications to support patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and multiple sclerosis (MS), their clinicians and families.