Scientists to study whether wearables can cut strokes

US researchers have been handed $37 million in funding to study whether Apple Watches can be used as part of a strategy to help prevent strokes.

The researchers from Northwestern University and John Hopkins University will use the money to run trials of an app on Apple Watch to monitor atrial fibrillation, or afib, which is known to cause strokes.

The team want to find out if the app can be used to reduce patients’ continuous and lifelong reliance on expensive blood-thinning medication.

According to Northwestern it is the first time a US government grant has been awarded to study the health benefits of wearables.

Afib is reportedly the most common heart rhythm disorder in adults, affecting up to 5 million Americans and at least 33.5 million worldwide.

The seven-year study will launch next spring and involve 5,400 patients who will either receive the blood thinners or the Apple Watch-monitoring treatment.

It is funded by the US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, a division of the US National Institutes of Health.

The trial will also examine whether the app can reduce major bleeding events compared to continuous therapy, according to a Northwestern press release.

With the use of the Apple Watch app and an accompanying iPhone app, patients will receive targeted care, meaning that they only use the blood-thinning medication for a limited period of time in response to a prolonged episode of afib when the stroke risk is high.

“If proven effective, this new treatment paradigm will fundamentally change the standard of care for the millions of Americans living with afib,” said principal investigator Dr Rod Passman, director of the Center for Arrhythmia Research and a professor of medicine in the division of cardiology at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine.

“Many of these patients are on blood thinners for the rest of their lives even if they have infrequent episodes of atrial fibrillation,” Passman said. “If we can show this strategy is equally protective against stroke and reduces bleeding, that could save lives, reduce cost and improve quality of life.”