Tunisian innovation brings hope to epilepsy sufferers

Sat, 2020-02-08 01:01

TUNIS: Millions of epilepsy patients across the Arab world are
in daily danger of suffering a potentially fatal seizure, with
multiple factors influencing when an attack might strike.

The condition’s unpredictability makes it tough to manage, and
a quick response from caregivers is essential.

Three Tunisian entrepreneurs have created a high-tech bracelet
that automatically alerts friends and family that a seizure has
happened.

“Usually, people who have seizures don’t know when one is
going to strike. We could see the problem, and wanted to use
technology to create a solution,” said 25-year-old Haroun Moula,
cofounder and chief operating officer of Tunis-based Epilert.

The sister of fellow cofounder Firas Rhaiem, 25, suffers from
epilepsy, which inspired the two schoolfriends and third cofounder
Amine Riahi, 26, to act.


The Epilert, a high-tech bracelet, automatically alerts friends
and family that a seizure has happened. (Supplied)

Together, they launched Epilert in 2017 with a few hundred
dollars, recruiting unpaid graduates and students to work for the
company in return for a stake in the firm. The company also formed
a partnership with a Tunis university medical school.

“The first challenge was to make our engineers aware of the
medical and scientific background of epilepsy so we could design an
optimal solution,” said Moula. “Our research led us to decide
on a bracelet because it’s easy to wear and use, and isn’t
stigmatizing.”

A seizure puts the epilepsy sufferer in danger, not only from
the attack itself but from harm caused if they were to fall: Every
year, one in 1,000 people with epilepsy dies from a seizure,
according to the US Epilepsy Foundation. “Imagine if a seizure
were to happen when someone is in the shower or riding a bike,”
said Moula, a computer engineer.

Epilert’s bracelet monitors a patient’s heartbeat,
temperature, neurological activity and other physiological
data.

It will recognize that a wearer is having a seizure within 30
seconds of a fit starting, and automatically contact the person’s
caregivers, which are registered on the patient’s account on the
Epilert app.

The bracelet will provide info on the seizure’s severity and
the patient’s location. Alerts can be delivered via SMS or
automated phone call. The device, which syncs to the wearer’s
smartphone via Bluetooth, can predict when a seizure is likely.

“If a patient is able to know a seizure is likely, they can
ensure they’re in a safe environment,” said Moula. “Our added
value is in the signal processing of the data, especially the
neurological data, which isn’t something you can find on other
devices.”

As well as automatically collecting physiological information
including wearers’ sleep patterns, users can add other important
data to their profile such as their age, s*x, weight and
height.

They can also log other data such as their most recent meal and
emotional status, which can all influence the likelihood of a
seizure and its severity.

“The idea is to use the app as an awareness tool and as a tool
for the patient to track themselves, logging detailed data to
better help the algorithms and the doctors,” said Moula.

There should be a huge market for Epilert’s technology. Ten of
the 22 Arab League member states provide no public data on
epilepsy, according to a 2016 academic study, but among the 12
members that do provide data, 7.5 people per 1,000 suffer from
epilepsy.

The combined population of Arab League members is around 420
million, so extrapolating the academics’ data would mean there
are around 3.15 million epilepsy suffers in the region.

Epilert is conducting preclinical trials of its bracelet, and
filing for US regulatory approval in order to start selling it in
the US. Moula expects to receive the go-ahead by the end of
2020.

Patients will be able to buy the bracelet directly from Epilert,
although the company also plans to partner with doctors
specializing in epilepsy in order to boost awareness of the
product.

The bracelet will cost $150, while a subscription to Epilert’s
services costs a further $10 per month.

 

• This report is being published by Arab News as a partner of
the Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin
Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives and the Bill and Melinda Gates
Foundation to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and
ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of
the Arab region. 

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Source: *FS – All – Science News Net
Tunisian innovation brings hope to epilepsy sufferers