By Rivka Borochov
For millions of adults with the degenerative joint disease osteoarthritis -- the most common form of arthritis -- studying the way they walk provides clues to the severity and progression of the disease as well as how to treat it.
Israeli startup SensoGo
is developing a new, inexpensive solution for gait analysis conceived by computer engineers and an orthopedist from Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon.
Existing walking labs are too expensive to be a practical option for gait analysis, considering that about 27 million Americans alone have osteoarthritis and millions more suffer from other orthopedic problems affecting their legs. SensoGo aims to turn a walking lab into a common instrument in the orthopedist’s office.
“The idea here is to assess any orthopedic problem or orthopedic-related problem that relates to the leg, because eventually these problems will affect the way you walk,” says CEO Tal Anker, a PhD in computer science.
By supplying absolute data instantly via sensors attached to the patients’ legs as they walk for several minutes, SensoGo could help physicians make an accurate assessment of joint problems, particular in the knees.
Meet your feet
According to Anker, a normal gait is defined as having the left foot on the ground 40% of the time, the right foot on the ground 40% of the time, and both feet on the ground 20% of the time. “Any deviation above 1% is considered abnormal,” he says.
This is what specially trained technicians in gait analysis labs measure over the course of hours, using fancy equipment including video cameras. SensoGo would take gait analysis out of this exclusive domain – quite literally.
“We definitely think that the patient can and will walk outside the clinic in a native environment such as a mall, thereby [enabling SensoGo to] measure the patient’s true native gait.”
Normally, Anker explains, orthopedists have no way of quantifying a problem accurately because pain and bone degeneration affect people in different ways. A farmer who uses his body all day long may have an extensive shoulder injury that barely affects his gait, while an office worker may have a minor condition that causes much pain.
SensoGo would allow doctors to make individualized decisions: Should physiotherapy be continued or changed? Is that long distance runner able to run the next big race? How well is a patient responding to drug therapy?
Three potential markets
SensoGo, founded in 2011, could have its solution ready by the last quarter of next year. In the
beginning, and in order to fast-track over the regulatory hurdles at the US Food and Drug Administration, SensoGo will focus on three markets.
First will be osteoarthritis, helping surgeons follow up treatments after surgeries such as knee replacement. The tool can help doctors determine what knee to operate on first, when to start physiotherapy, when a patient should start walking again and how well the surgery worked.
The second market is sports medicine, where there are huge opportunities. SensoGo is developing a method to monitor an Achilles injury in runners, for example, that would give doctors the information they need to determine when a patient can start running, or at the very least walking, safely again.
The third market, Anker says, is diabetes-related neuropathy (nerve pain) in the feet. This painful condition can be treated and delayed if caught early enough, which could be accomplished by the SensoGo tool used during regular doctor visits. Clinical trials will be needed for this application.
If all goes according to plan, and fundraising goals of $2 million to $4 million are met, SensoGo –– based in Misgav and funded by the Mofet B’Yehuda Venture Accelerator –– could be in the doctor’s bag of tools in a year and a half, Anker predicts.