Researchers at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, in Catalonia, have developed a system to control the severity of myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), also known as chronic fatigue syndrome. The system includes a commercial chest strap sensor that measures heart rate variability and a paired app that collects, collects and presents this data, allowing patients to monitor their status and share information with their doctor.
MS is a debilitating condition, characterized by intense fatigue that interferes with daily activities. The prevalence of MS is expected to increase dramatically in the coming years, as it appears to be a common component of persistent COVID-19, also known as “long COVID”. SEM can be triggered by persistent COVID-19, along with infection by other viruses, and some expect it to be a significant part of the wave of long-lived cases of COVID that are currently developing worldwide. Currently, the disease has no diagnostic biomarkers or effective treatments and, historically, medical science has ignored and ruled it out, so techniques to measure the severity of the disease and track patient progress are welcome.
These researchers had previously found that heart rate variability, which includes small differences between consecutive heartbeats and provides an indicator of autonomic nerve function, can be correlated with the severity of ME disease. “Specifically, we had observed that this variability was lower in patients with MS, especially in the most disabling cases,” said Dr. Jesus Castro, a researcher involved in the development of the new system. “In this work we wanted to verify the relationship between heart rate variability and syndrome in both women and men with MS compared to healthy controls and their usefulness in controlling patients.”
In the latter study, the researchers used the technology to measure heart rate variability, which consists of a chest strap sensor and a paired application that could communicate with the sensor via Bluetooth. They measured hemodynamic properties in a group of male and female volunteers with MS, as well as in healthy controls. The results suggest that the technology could be particularly useful in women with MS, which is convenient, as the disease appears to primarily affect women.
“We have shown that using the app would be especially helpful for monitoring women suffering from this syndrome, who clearly have lower heart rate variability compared to healthy women,” said Dr. Rosa M Escorihuela , another researcher involved in the study.
In the future, it should be possible to incorporate the same underlying technology into portable devices, such as smart watches, to improve patient comfort and make it easier for clinicians to obtain patient data.