Michael J Fox
The Michael J. Fox Foundation is teaming up with Intel Corporation to study Parkinson's using wearable devices. The actor says "the answer" to curing the disease could lie within Parkinson's patients. Reuters

The Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC) is partnering with the Michael J. Fox Foundation to take on Parkinson’s disease with help from wearables, the two announced on Wednesday. Using the kind of sensors found in wearable technology like the Fitbit and the Pebble smartwatch, the two companies hope to cultivate enough data to help scientists better monitor patients to learn more about their symptoms, and the disease itself.

"The answers are within us," actor Michael J. Fox told USA Today. "We just need to find a way to let people into our brains both literally and figuratively to help us figure this out."

The partnership aims to develop more in-depth research, using wearable devices as a way for researchers to collect data 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Current research is limited by the ever-changing symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, which doctors assign a score based on how a patient feels during a visit.

"If the doctor is running 15 minutes late, the assessment could be completely different than if they'd seen the disease 15 minutes earlier," Fox Foundation CEO Todd Sherer told the newspaper, since symptoms can change from nearly nonexistent one minute to extreme the next.

The two organizations will create an app that allows Parkinson’s patients to log which medications they are taking, and record how they feel. Intel says it expects to collect about one gigabyte of data on a patient’s daily activity via wearable devices.

Intel said in a blog post that researchers will go from a small number of data points and handwritten diaries to analyzing 300 “readings per second from thousands of patients.” It has already conducted test runs of the plan with Pebble watches on small groups of patients as well as a control group.

The wearable devices recorded the sleep patterns of patients, their gait and balance as well as the intensity of tremors over the course of four days. The information, Intel and the Fox Foundation expect, will lead to new insight on a disease that strikes 60,000 Americans every year.