The FSHD Global Research Foundation invested in Springbok Analytics to further explore the potential of individualized muscle analysis technology powered by AI to improve research, clinical trials and outcomes for patients living with Facioscapulohumeral Muscular Dystrophy.

If you came across Springbok’s investment round news from a few weeks ago, you would have read about the investment from the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks, the work with the NFL through the HAMIR hamstring study, and starting up with the NBA’s Launchpad initiative. It is exciting and validating to explore the applications of Springbok with the world’s very best athletes at the cutting-edge of performance. But there are as many, if not more, exciting opportunities ahead to work across the medical and health community.

Also in that release was information about the FSHD Global Research Foundation, who participated in the investment raise. There are a multitude of opportunities for Springbok’s technology to create new research opportunities, and improve clinical trial efficacy and outcomes for patients living with Facioscapulohumeral Muscular Dystrophy.

 "FSHD Global is excited to support this innovative technology as we seek to revolutionize muscle analysis in the clinical trial and broader research fields to further understand disease progression and measure the effectiveness of future treatments. Additionally, the technology will provide new clinical care tools that patients can see and then understand how their body is working. We are hopeful that this enables targeted therapy programs to improve quality of life through a more informed disease management plan."

-Emma Weatherley
Managing Director of FSHD Global Research Foundation

Headshot of Emma Weatherly

After a diagnosis of FSHD in her early 30s, Emma quickly formed connections to FSHD Global and within the FSHD community. She became a strong advocate for FSHD, Muscular Dystrophy and access and inclusion for people with disabilities. Emma joined the FSHD Global board in 2021 and has been working to revolutionize Australian diagnostics and build clinical trial readiness. We are eager to get to work with Emma, her team, and the FSHD community as we work to leverage our technology to help diagnosis and treatment of FSHD.

What is FSHD?

Facioscapulohumeral Muscular Dystrophy (FSHD) is a highly complex and progressive muscle wasting disease causing weakening and loss of skeletal muscle in adults and children, robbing them of their ability to walk, talk, smile, blink or even eat.

The disease is named for the areas where muscle weakness is usually noticeable in patients: facio (face), scapula (back/shoulder), and humeral (upper arm). However, many people experience weakness throughout the skeletal muscle system, resulting in significant loss of function, limited mobility, chronic pain and fatigue.

It does not affect muscle in a uniform way, and its symptoms vary considerably from person to person, which can make it challenging to diagnose, especially in its early stages. Current treatments focus primarily on managing symptoms and improving quality of life. The underlying mechanisms of FSHD are not fully understood, which has made it difficult to date to develop targeted therapies. 

Measuring efficacy of treatment has also proven to be a challenge. Muscle biopsies are often relied upon, but these are painful, invasive, potentially dangerous procedures, and require taking good muscle out of the body for analysis. 

The role of MRIs

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a useful tool for diagnosing and monitoring the progression of FSHD. In the case of FSHD, MRI can be used to detect changes in the muscles, such as fatty infiltration and atrophy, which are characteristics of the disease.

MRI muscle analysis can help to distinguish FSHD from other muscle disorders and can be used to monitor disease progression over time. With regards to FSHD, MRI is often used alongside other diagnostic tools, such as genetic testing and electromyography (EMG), to confirm a diagnosis of FSHD. In some cases, MRI may also be used to screen family members of individuals with FSHD who are at risk of inheriting the condition.

Monitoring disease progression with MRI can help physicians tailor treatment and management strategies for FSHD patients. For example, MRI can be used to monitor changes in muscle structure and function in response to interventions such as physical therapy or drug treatments.

Overall, MRI is a valuable diagnostic and monitoring tool for FSHD and plays an important role in the management of the condition.

Looking Ahead, Together

Emma from FSHD Global shared a few insights about the work together in the near term, and the potential of Springbok’s personalized muscle analysis technology to improve FSHD outcomes for patients everywhere.

What potential role can Springbok’s AI technology play to improve diagnosis and treatment of FSHD?

"It has the potential to be an effective tool to measure efficacy of muscle therapy treatments, first and foremost. Springbok’s muscle analysis removes subjectivity, giving doctors, clinicians and patients more objective data to better understand the disease and its progression."

What are the next steps with FSHD and Springbok after this initial investment news?

"In the initial stage, we will be focused on building a patient disease registry, giving us baseline data for clinical trials. The data from these Springbok scans will be available to both patients and researchers looking into FSHD, and we believe this is the first usage of AI technology in Australia to better understand FSHD."

How will people living with FSHD benefit from a Springbok scan?

"Beyond the improvements in diagnosis and individualized treatment, living with a progressive disease has a tremendous impact on mental health. The type of information generated from Springbok can give people the ability to forward plan in a new and more effective way, hopefully helping to mitigate or minimize the impact of falls and other risks that come with the disease’s progression over time.

Additionally, we want to give people the ability to access and understand their own muscles and data, giving them objective information. This also will help doctors and therapists to create more personalized, effective and data-driven reports, targeted muscle therapies, and treatment protocols.

We are excited to see the patient benefits to having these reports available in the clinical setting now to help with prescription of mobility aids, allied health services and for consideration in health assessments such as falls risk assessments, giving patients and their treating professionals access to accurate and timely information on an individual muscle’s health and also muscle groups that provide certain functions such as balance, movement and mobility.

We are excited by the potential that Springbok’s technology has to improve our mission at the FSHD Global Research Foundation.”

Springbok and FSHD

For patients, Springbok’s technology provides personalized measurements of atrophy, progression, and inflammation, holistic musculoskeletal insights, and informs  individualized rehabilitation plans.

The analyses come with access to an in-depth interactive viewer and easy to share static report which provides:

  • Interactive Digital Muscle Model 
  • Key Findings
  • Muscle Volumes
  • L-R Asymmetry Percentages
  • Springbok Muscle Development Scores
  • Fat Infiltration Percentages
  • Comparison Reports for Longitudinal Analyses

For researchers, our technology provides precise measurements of muscle volume, fat infiltration, and STIR images, as well as population-wide analytics to identify disease phenotypes. Our in-depth analytics can easily pair with functional data to track intervention effectiveness. Springbok partners get access to:

  • Rapid scan processing and automated delivery of results
  • Objective, precise and repeatable data  
  • Customized databases to support data collection and data lake creation at scale
  • Flexible imaging protocols leveraging existing sequences, optimized for rapid scanning and patient experience
  • Comprehensive support for imaging site onboarding and data collection
  • Fast, easy imaging site setup and testing

Get a Demo Today

More Articles