Apple Announces Epilepsy, Autism, and Melanoma Studies for ResearchKit

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Never before in the history of health and medicine has so much power and personal responsibility been given to the individual for their own health and well-being.

But at the root of this personal responsibility is the work of thousands and doctors and researchers, who continue to innovate and revolutionize the way we approach healthcare. One struggle that has long plagued researchers is finding enough people to participate in the studies they need to drive their work.

That’s where Apple ResearchKit comes in. Since its launch in March of 2015, the ResearchKit has encouraged thousands of people to sign up for medical research studies powered by their iPhones. One such study, a cardiovascular trial, garnered 11,000 volunteers in just one day — a number of participants researchers say would normally take a year or more to gather.

Indeed, the smart phone and tablet are relatively untapped resources for health monitoring and preventative medicine. At the heart of smartphones are processors with incredible power, such as the Tegra K1 that’s at the center of the Nexus 9. Beyond that, most phones are equipped with accelerometers, light sensors, and gyroscopes. Then users can add further peripherals such as heart rate sensors, temperature sensors, air quality sensors and more to make their phones into true bio-monitoring and environmental condition-sensing wonders.

Today, Apple announced three new studies that will focus on Autism, Epilepsy and Melanoma. Alongside researchers from Duke University, Johns Hopkins and Oregon Health & Science University, the new studies are designed to use Apple’s ResearchKit and are expected to garner thousands of participants.

Duke University and Duke Medicine’s app is called “Autism & Beyond” and will use the front-facing camera and emotion detection algorithms to measure a child’s reaction to videos shown on the iPhone's screen. This tech is combined with well-established screening questionnaires to give parents and researchers insight into autism warning signs.

Johns Hopkins "EpiWatch" app will use the Apple Watch to help detect epileptic seizures. By using the watch's accelerometers and heart rate sensor data, the app can capture the digital signature of a seizure and send out an alert.

Finally, Oregon health & Science University is taking a look at using the phone's camera to take images of moles over time and determine if there is a risk for melanoma or other forms of skin cancer. This information can be shared with both the individual and their healthcare professionals.

ResearchKit's open source software framework continues to drive healthcare innovation forward as more health care professionals look to leverage the incredible computing power of modern smart devices into health monitoring and prevention tools.

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