Apple’s ResearchKit pumps new blood into heart studies

Apple launched an open-source project that will facilitate medical research, including an iPhone app for monitoring cardiovascular health.

Apple’s ResearchKit will serve as a tool for studies on cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, breast cancer and asthma. Users of iPhones can download free apps and give permission for data such as blood pressure to be accessed and measured by third parties. The tool is expected to help researchers recruit a large number of diverse participants to represent different patient populations and settings.

In conjunction with Apple’s unveiling of ResearchKit, Stanford University School of Medicine in California released its MyHeart Counts app, which collects data on an iPhone owner’s physical activity and cardiovascular risk factors. Stanford is collaborating with the American Heart Association on the study.  

“We are looking for everyone who is curious as to how healthy their heart is to download this app,” Alan Yeung, MD, a professor of cardiovascular medicine at Stanford, said in a release. “Users will be able to see their activity and fitness levels, and their ‘heart age.’ We’ll also be able to study what motivates people to improve their heart health.”

Stanford is one of five research groups that have developed ResearchKit tools. Others include an asthma health app from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in Los Angeles and LifeMap Solutions; a breast cancer app from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in New York City, Penn Medicine in Philadelphia, Sage Bionetworks and University of California, Los Angeles Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center; a GlucoSuccess app from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston; and a Parkinson mPower app from Sage Bionetworks and the University of Rochester in New York.

The MyHeart Counts and other ResearchKit apps can be downloaded at the App Store for iPhone 5s, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Apple plans to release ResearchKit as an open source framework in April.