While there remains no cure for Parkinson’s Disease as of yet, Big Data is making major strides in grossly expanding what we know about the disease—and thus making a cure more likely in years to come.
Parkinson’s doesn’t just affect old people, either, as many people once suspected. More recent cases, such as those of Muhammed Ali and Michael J Fox, have helped prove the fallacy of that once commonly-held assumption.
Still, far less is known about the disease than is known. For instance, Parkinson’s is usually diagnosed through a series of 15-minute appointments. Given that Parkinson’s regularly varies in severity, however, those 15-minute appointments may not give doctors or a treatment team a very thorough picture of a patient’s disease.
Andy Grove, a former CEO of Intel, however, is helping researchers making strides—with the use of Big Data. In the last few years, Intel has teamed with the Michael J Fox Foundation to gather data from Parkinson’s patients, with the aim of using that data to better understand the disease.
The project uses a Cloudera-based platform on an Amazon server, gathering 9.7 terabytes of unique data every day, based on the following:
- 10,000 patients are participating in the study
- Each patient wears tech that monitors their steps, sleep schedules, and speed of movement, among other pieces of data; a full 300 measurements are taken every second
- This results in 1 gigabyte of data recorded for each patient each day
The data stored on the Amazon server, then, is automatically made part of a central database which has been made freely available to researchers and data scientists.
This vast data set, in turn, allows researchers the ability to sort through it with dedicated algorithms, searching for patterns, correlations, and other relationships that help them better understand Parkinson’s disease. This is the sort of work that would clearly have not been possible even 5 or 10 years ago, but the advancements of wearable tech have made it far less scary for Parkinson’s patients.
Most amazing, though, is the sheer quantity of data, and what it allows researchers to sift through. The development of ever-increasing computing power allows researchers more and more capacity to sift through enormous quantities of data, better allowing them to see patterns and relationships as advanced algorithms can work through that data—and that, in turn, helps create meaningful and actionable reports.
While this has been occurring for years in sports and athletics, only recently are we beginning to understand how much Big Data can do for medicine and medical research. Parkinson’s disease research is only one of those frontiers, and as more of that data is analyzed, we may well find ourselves well on our way to a cure.
Click here to read more about Parkinson’s disease. Published with permission.