Research

PatientsLikeMe @ The 20th International ALS/MND Symposium in Berlin

The 20th International Symposium on ALS/MND took place (December 8th-10th) in Berlin, Germany. This is the 4th ALS Symposium attended by PatientsLikeMe, and certainly the most exciting in terms of new findings. The annual symposium is a tremendous opportunity for researchers from around the world to meet and share new developments – it’s the big event for the ALS research community and attracts scientists from across the globe. PatientsLikeMe Chairman and Co-Founder Jamie Heywood and Research Scientist Timothy Vaughan, PhD presented three posters at the conference with some of the findings we’ve generated this year. The highlight was a poster describing our analysis of the patient-led study of lithium carbonate. Using new techniques that compared patients on lithium to carefully matched control patients, we determined that the drug had no effect on the progression of ALS. The poster was well received with good feedback from experienced experts in the field, and we are currently working on writing up a full analysis and description of our techniques. Our second poster described a small survey we did about emotional lability, also known as pseudobulbar affect (PBA). We found that although many ALS patients suffer from unusual or uncontrollable outbursts of laughter, crying, …

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Research Award: Patients Informing Practice

Earlier this Fall at Medicine 2.0, PatientsLikeMe was honored to receive the inaugural Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR) Award for our paper on what we can learn about drugs post market from patients reporting treatment experiences on PatientsLikeMe. Once a drug is on the market, it can be difficult to evaluate how it’s working in the real world for different kinds of people using it for different purposes. In this paper, our research team examined how we can learn from collecting the experiences from individual members scattered around the world into a single database. The study focused on Amitriptyline, a medication used widely and for a variety of purposes, and reports on why patients take it, the efficacy of the drug, its side-effects and associated burden. To see patients’ real world experiences with a specific treatment, like Amitriptyline, you can browse the thousands of treatment reports shared on PatientsLikeMe.  You can also view a summary of our Medicine 2.0 presentation here or below to learn more about this study.  The full paper will be published in 2010, so stay tuned!

PatientsLikeMe Adds Online Community for People With Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

PatientsLikeMe made the following announcement last night at the TEDMED conference.  For more on Jamie Heywood’s presentation, check out what people are saying on Twitter. – – – – – – – PATIENTSLIKEME ADDS ONLINE COMMUNITY FOR PEOPLE WITH CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME Researchers Use Open Medical Network to Measure Real-World Impact of XMRV Virus Cambridge, MA–October 30, 2009–PatientsLikeMe (www.patientslikeme.com), the leading online community for people with life-changing conditions, announces the expansion of its fibromyalgia community to welcome patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), also know as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME). By sharing information about their experience with CFS, patients can now find others just like them, including other patients who may have the newly discovered xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus (XMRV). The purpose of this expansion is for PatientsLikeMe to research the impact XMRV has on CFS patients. “With 1 million patients diagnosed with CFS, and potentially 10 million Americans who could be infected with the XMRV virus, there is an unique opportunity to use the power of our open medical network to understand this illness and accelerate the validation and development of new biomarkers and treatments,” says Jamie Heywood, co-founder and chairman of PatientsLikeMe. There are currently more than 7,000 …

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Charting the course of PLS and PMA

Primary Lateral Sclerosis (PLS) and Progressive Muscular Atrophy (PMA) are two rare variants of the disease ALS. Normally, ALS affects the upper motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord, as well as the lower motor neurons that send signals from the spinal cord directly to muscles. PLS and PMA are different because PLS only affects the upper motor neurons, and PMA only affects the lower motor neurons. It’s an important distinction for patients to be told about because the prognosis is less severe in these conditions.  On average, survival in ALS is typically reported to be 2-5 years, whereas for patients with PMA it’s more like 5-10 years and for PLS it’s even longer (often several decades). ALS itself is a rare condition, affecting some 30,000 people in the United States at any one time.  PLS and PMA each represent approximately 5% of the overall ALS community, so there’s approximately 1,500 patients with each condition in the U.S at any given time.  In April 2008, PatientsLikeMe added the ability for members of our ALS community to change their diagnosis to these rare conditions.  To date, we now have 182 patients with PLS and 270 with PMA. This is truly …

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UCB and PatientsLikeMe Partner to Give People With Epilepsy a Voice in Advancing Research

Today is an exciting day for PatientsLikeMe.   In a first-of-its-kind industry-patient partnership, PatientsLikeMe is joining forces with biopharma company, UCB, to launch a new community for people with epilepsy to capture real-world experiences of the disease and help advance research. The news release announcing the partnership is below. ****** BRUSSELS, BELGIUM and CAMBRIDGE, MA–(Marketwire – June 15, 2009) – Biopharma company UCB and PatientsLikeMe, the leading online community for people with life-changing conditions, today announced a strategic partnership to create an online, open epilepsy community that captures real-world experiences of people living with epilepsy in the U.S. Scheduled to launch in early 2010, this platform will be designed to collect, analyze and reflect information received from people with epilepsy, regardless of their diagnosis, prognosis or treatment regimen. More…

PatientsLikeMe Teams Up with 23andMe to Help Parkinson’s Patients

Despite some recent happenings in the news, we’re here to assure you that health 2.0 is still very much alive.  Here’s our recent announcement about our new partnership with 23andMe. ————– PatientsLikeMe, the first community-based personalized medicine platform for people with life-changing conditions, and 23andMe, the world’s leading personal genomics company, announce a partnership today to help people with Parkinson’s disease.  PatientsLikeMe is teaming with 23andMe on its effort to recruit 10,000 people with Parkinson’s for a massive study of the disease, and give patients a way to learn more about their personal genetics. “Today, technology is moving faster than the research establishment,” says James Heywood, co-founder and chairman of PatientsLikeMe.  “We are excited to see what happens when you give patients the ability to see variations of their disease and compare it to their own, while enabling them to easily define their personal genomics.” More…

Gambling in online PD patients higher than previously reported

When most people think of Parkinson’s disease (PD), they think of a shuffling gait, a shaky hand, and slowness of movement. As awareness has increased of the non-movement symptoms of PD, such as hallucinations and depression, we’ve seen the psychological consequences the disease can have too. More recently, studies in the scientific literature have been reporting on cases of excessive gambling in patients with PD, sometimes associated with the use of dopamine-agonist drugs such as pramipexole (brand name: Mirapex). In the Parkinson’s disease community on PatientsLikeMe, we came across several accounts from distressed members who had suddenly acquired a significant gambling problem. One member wrote: “I am spending a lot of money that i should not spend.  I wake up thinking about the lottery, I daily purchase lottery tickets, scratch offs, and often wish that I could get on the bus to go to the casinos… Help me before I spend all of our little savings.” We set out to investigate further, setting up a research collaboration with Dr. Graeme MacPhee of the Parkinsons Disease Non-Motor Group (PDNMG) and Southern General Hospital (Glasgow, Scotland), who has carried out studies in this area in the past. Although previous studies had associated …

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A new gene for ALS: What sharing your genetics could mean for research

In today’s issue of the journal Science two papers describe the discovery of a new gene for ALS (you can read the abstracts here and here). Around 90% of ALS cases are sporadic, i.e. we don’t know what causes them, but for 5-10% of patients the disease runs in their family (known as familial ALS, FALS). Until today, there was only one major causative gene that we knew about, called SOD1, which accounted for 20% of familial cases. Today’s new discovery of the gene FUS (also known as ALS6) accounts for an additional 3-5% of familial cases and was the result of an international collaboration between scientists in Boston, London, and Sydney. This is very exciting for research because the more we know about what causes ALS, the better our chances of finding an effective treatment through better understanding of the pathways involved in motor neuron degeneration. Here at PatientsLikeMe, we’ve recently upgraded our ALS platform to capture data on familial ALS patients’ known genetic mutations. The goal is to help familial ALS patients find another patient like them, and to enhance understanding of the phenotype of each mutation, e.g. if different types of mutation cause a faster or slower …

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ALS Symposium 2008: A history of ALS online

Back in November, Jamie Heywood and I attended the 19th International ALS/MND Symposium in Birmingham, UK.  As part of an ongoing series of blog posts reporting from that conference, I have put together a narrated slideshow which is an abridged version of a platform presentation I was asked to give at the conference about the past, present, and future of the internet for patients with ALS/MND. As you will see in the presentation, there has been a strong online presence in the ALS/MND world since the early 1990s. Over time, the proportion and representativeness of the patients participating has increased dramatically, to the point that we now have some 10% of the USA’s ALS/MND population registered on the site. Next up in our series…a blog post looking at some of our recent improvements to PatientsLikeMe for people living with ALS/MND.

Bringing you Medicine 2.0

Last week, PatientsLikeMe presented a keynote address at the inaugural Medicine 2.0 Congress in Toronto, Canada in front of 200 researchers from 20 countries. A new, annual international conference on Web 2.0 (social web) applications in health and medicine, this year’s event was centered around the theme: “Building Virtual Communities and Social Networking Applications for Patients and Consumers.” You can view the entire conference proceedings online.  The event is organized by Gunther Eysenbach, MD MPH, who is the editor and publisher of the Journal of Medical Internet Research, where Jeana Frost and I recently published our paper – “Social Uses of Personal Health Information Within PatientsLikeMe.”  This was a great opportunity to update the research community on how our patient members are engaging in data-driven discussions about their health.  In my presentation, I gave an overview of the site, summarized some of our published research results, and provided examples of how patients are using our forum and profile comment tools to better understand their own and other’s experience of symptoms and treatments.  What really impressed this audience is that PatientsLikeMe is delivering the best of what “medicine 2.0” can potentially deliver to the healthcare consumer, and patients are using it.  …

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