The Apple Watch will soon be used by researchers to study toxicities relating to children's cancer therapies.
Forming one of three new heart health studies announced by Apple, doctors at Murdoch Children's Research Institute in Melbourne will use the Apple Watch ECG app to test 40 children and adolescents with the hopes of better understanding how heart rhythms can be affected by treatment.
The study will focus on QT syndrome, a potentially life-threatening condition - and one that children are particularly susceptible to. Patients receiving cancer treatment are routinely screened with a 12-lead electrocardiogram to check for signs of prolonged QT, since this creates an irregular rhythm and increases the time needed for blood to flow through the heart.
However, outpatients still need monitoring and the ability to take ECGs wherever they are - and that's where the smartwatch will look to fill the gap.
"We used to think of cardiac toxicity as something that happened 10 years after treatment. But now we know that new cancer therapies (like specific inhibitors or immune therapy) can cause arrhythmias within 48 hours of medication - so there's a big gap in terms of what we know about the toxicities at the moment," said the Research Institute's senior pediatric oncologist, Dr. Rachel Conyers.
Apple notes that the study will begin over the coming months, and hopes the insights will further the understanding of cardiac toxicity and potential opportunities for intervention.
That's not the only study the smartwatch will be involved in, though, as we say.
Apple has also detailed a study involving equipping firefighters with the Apple Watch in order to research the impact of wildfire smoke on heart health. Up to 200 firefighters in Texas and California will take part, with researchers at Texas A&M and Stanford looking at heart rate and rhythm, blood oxygen and activity data.
And the watch is also being used in a study relating to atrial fibrillation (AFib) in the Netherlands. At the Amsterdam University Medical Centers, researchers will enroll more than 300 patients over the age of 65 who meet the risk threshold for AFib.
Half will wear the Apple Watch for at least 12 hours per day, and, even within three weeks of the study beginning, researchers were actually able to identify a participant in this group with AFib that wasn't experiencing any symptoms.
Moving forward, the team of researchers also hopes to use the ECG app to monitor patients from home, given that certain medications can alter heart rhythms, and identify predictive biomarkers for exacerbations in heart failure patients.
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