Mobile tech collaboration explores rare disease

A revolutionary research initiative in Cornwall is using mobile technology to transform the treatment of a rare and poorly understood condition.

Bringing together the region’s leading academic and digital experts, the project is shedding light on how the symptoms of Ménière’s Disease can be mitigated and managed.

Ménière’s is an inner ear condition that profoundly affects the hearing and balance of around 160,000 people in the UK, yet there are large gaps in our understanding of how the disease is triggered and develops.

In a bid to transform how we treat this chronic illness, the University of Exeter Medical School has partnered with Cornish digital company, Buzz Interactive, to develop a mobile application that can record symptoms on a daily basis.

The team are creating a database of information on the disease to help in their analysis and are feeding results straight back to sufferers – empowering them to manage their own symptoms more effectively.

“Working with Buzz Interactive has meant that our application hasn’t just been beneficial to researchers, but has also become a really useful tool for patients.”

Cornwall boasts a burgeoning and innovative digital technology sector and working closely with the region’s private sector on co-created projects is changing the landscape of scientific research. Dr Jessica Tyrrell has led the Ménière’s study and believes its collaborative design has been essential to its success:

“Working with Buzz Interactive has meant that our application hasn’t just been beneficial to researchers, but has also become a really useful tool for patients. It gives them unique feedback on how their condition is changing and has allowed us to recruit and retain large numbers of participants. Without Buzz’s insight, that’s something that almost certainly wouldn’t have featured.”

Linking the mobile app with weather information from the UK Met Office, the research is also hoping to uncover associations between Ménière’s and meteorological conditions, a move that could see the tool used to send out early warning messages to people.

“We’re really proud to be playing an integral role in this kind of collaborative research.”

The collaboration has proved pivotal for Buzz Interactive, giving them invaluable experience in eHealth and spring-boarding their expansion into the health and wellbeing sector. Lindsey Axten, Director at Buzz, said:

“As a result of our work with the University of Exeter, Buzz is now well positioned to make a move into the eHealth sector. Our success with the Ménière’s application has highlighted how technology can improve patient health and wellbeing, and we’re really proud to be playing an integral role in this kind of collaborative research.”

By involving patients and participants in the way the tool is developed, this project has also had a profound effect on the people taking part. Gerald Pitts has suffered from Ménière’s for 6 years and believes the study has given hope to sufferers of the condition:

“When I was first diagnosed with Ménière’s I felt incredibly isolated. Being part of this project has allowed me to feed into the design of the application and offered hope that we’ll be able to improve our understanding of this chronic illness, and give people some quality of life back.”

You can find more on Buzz at www.buzzinteractive.co.uk