James Cameron's Avatar films have not just revolutionised cinema, they are contributing to medical research too.
A team of researchers from the United Kingdom has adapted the motion capture technology used in Avatar to predict the progression of movement-impairing diseases, the BBC reported. Avatar released in 2009. Its sequel, Avatar : The Way of Water, came out in 2022.
The Avatar technology makes use of special suits equipped with sensors to record the movements of actors, who are to be shown on screen as fictional humanoids.
Once their movements are recorded using the suits, they are transferred to a software to achieve motion in real-time.
In a medical setting, such motion capture suits were tried by experts on those affected by Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) and Friedreich’s ataxia (FA). Duchenne muscular dystrophy is a progressive muscular weakness, while Friedreich’s ataxia causes progressive nervous system damage, and also movement difficulties.
There were two separate studies for the diseases, part of a collaboration between Imperial College London and UCL. The results were published in the Nature Medicine journal.
During the research, the sensor suits were tried on patients and healthy age-matched controls.
Data was then collected from sensors and fed into an AI-powered tool to create avatars of trial participants.
"This vast data set and powerful computing tool allowed researchers to define key movement fingerprints seen in children with DMD as well as adults with FA, that were different in the control group," Imperial College London said. "Many of these AI-based movement patterns had not been described clinically before in either DMD or FA."
Experts also discovered that the technique could help improve disease progression predictions. More precise predictions would mean more efficient clinical trials, and patients getting quicker access to novel therapies.
Professor Paola Giunti, co-author on the FA study, said AI-powered approaches are clearly superior when it comes to capturing the progression of a rare disease like FA.
"With this novel approach we can revolutionise clinical trial design for new drugs and monitor the effects of already existing drugs with an accuracy that was unknown with previous methods," she said.
(Edited by : Anushka Sharma)