Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) is partnering with Johnson & Johnson’s (NYSE: JNJ) Janssen Pharmaceuticals unit to study whether the latest Apple Watch and an app from the pharmaceutical company can be used to prevent strokes. According to the companies, the Apple Watch stroke prevention study will start later this year and follow the participants for multiple years. Specific details on how to participate have yet to be released.
According to a statement from the companies, the study will be conducted on a controlled, randomized basis. Participants will be limited to those who are U.S. adults ages 65 years and older who wear the Apple Watch Series 4. That watch has an irregular heart rhythm notification feature and an FDA-cleared ECG app that can be used to detect a condition called atrial fibrillation.
Atrial fibrillation, or AFib, is an irregular heart rate that is considered one of the leading indicators of increased stroke risk. Worldwide, it is estimated that about 33 million people have the condition and as many as 30 percent of cases remain undiagnosed until the person suffers life-threatening complications. Johnson & Johnson’s executive vice president and chief scientific officer, Paul Stoffels, said the goal of the study “is to identify early on AFib and prevent stroke by combining the physical know-how from Apple and what we have from the medical and scientific know-how.”
A stroke occurs when poor blood flow in the brain results in brain damage. The symptoms, which include partial paralysis, partial loss of vision, and difficulties speaking, could be temporary or permanent. Strokes are also life threatening, becoming the second most frequent cause of death after heart disease in 2015.
The companies are hopeful that being able to detect AFib earlier will reduce the roughly 130,000 deaths and 750,000 hospitalizations that occur each year in the U.S. because of the condition. The study will collect aggregate data from study participants, rather than tracking individual patients. Apple Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams said, “We are excited to work with Johnson & Johnson, which has a long history and expertise in cardiovascular disease.”