Friday, March 13, 2015

MGH researchers develop app to study type 2 diabetes


Can smartphones change the way clinical research is conducted? A team from the MGH Center for Assessment Technology and Continuous Health (CATCH) may soon find out. On March 9, the CATCH team officially launched GlucoSuccess, an iPhone app created to help researchers study type 2 diabetes. The app, which was announced by Apple during the launch of its open-source framework ResearchKit, allows patients to track health behaviors important for type 2 diabetes, such as physical activity, diet and medication adherence.

“Our team is focused on harnessing the remarkable power of mobile technology to benefit patients with diabetes,” says Stanley Shaw, MD, PhD, co-director of CATCH. “At the same time, the sensing, computing and communication capabilities of smartphones will enable us to create research datasets of unprecedented size and detail around specific health behaviors and how they relate to blood glucose in individuals and populations.”

GlucoSuccess also will help change the way patients participate in medical research. In addition to making the enrollment process easier, the app will provide patients with insight into their own data. For diabetes patients, this means they will be able to see the effect that physical activity, diet and medications have on their blood glucose levels, which may lead toward positive behavior changes.

“Clinical research can provide long-term insight into disease, which can lead to new treatments,” says Shaw. “This app takes the next step of providing insights to patients based on the data that they contribute to the research study, which can inform the decisions they make on a daily basis. It changes the culture of study participation to more of a two-way exchange.”

For instance, study participants can view their diet and physical activity patterns on days when their glucose control is optimal, and learn which food items they have eaten are particularly high in carbohydrates or sugar.

MGH’s team joined with research groups from academic medical centers across the country to create the first apps using ResearchKit – including apps for breast cancer, Parkinson’s disease, cardiovascular health and asthma.

“This project embodies the CATCH mission of discovering new ways of measuring health and disease and placing patients at the center of their care as well as clinical research. A new open-source framework for research app development will lead to a growing ecosystem of apps that tackle different chronic diseases in creative ways,” says Shaw.

The app is free and available for download from the iTunes Store.

Read more articles from the 03/13/15 Hotline issue.


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