Research Project Seeks to Develop Voice-based Markers for Pulmonary Hypertension

Marisa Wexler, MS avatar

by Marisa Wexler, MS |

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Mayo Clinic and Vocalis Health announced a collaboration to research and develop new voice-based tools for screening, detecting, and monitoring health.

The collaboration will begin with a project that seeks to identify vocal biomarkers for pulmonary hypertension (PH); such markers could help healthcare providers detect and treat the chronic, progressive disease.

“Voice analysis has the potential to help physicians make more informed decisions about their patients in a non-invasive, cost-effective manner. We believe this technology could have important clinical implications for telemedicine and remote patient monitoring in the very near future,” Tal Wenderow, CEO of Vocalis Health, said in a press release.

“We are excited to work with Mayo Clinic and have already started planning clinical trials for additional indications,” Wenderow said.

Vocalis has developed an artificial intelligence (AI)-based platform that is able to run on any connected voice platform — mobile phone, computer, tablet, etc. — and analyze vocal patterns in greater detail than what is discernible to the human ear.

In a previous study, researchers used this computer platform to analyze 20-second-long vocal recordings from people with PH, extracting 223 distinct acoustic features. These features were used to create a singular score.

The team demonstrated statistically significant associations between this voice-based score and established biological measurements used to assess the severity of PH, such as mean pulmonary arterial pressure.

In the new collaboration, Mayo will conduct a prospective clinical validation study to further develop vocal biomarkers for PH. The validation study will use Vocalis’s software to analyze participants’ health based on voice recordings.

Following this initial phase of the collaboration, researchers will work to identify other voice-based markers that could provide useful information about other diseases, symptoms, and/or conditions.

Vocalis also is working to develop voice-based tests to help screen, diagnose, and monitor COVID-19. A study to collect vocal data for this purpose is ongoing and is seeking participants (both healthy and positive for COVID-19). Interested individuals can participate in the study at this link.

“We have seen the clinical benefits of voice analysis for patient screening throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and this collaboration [with Mayo] presents an opportunity for us to continue broadening our research, beginning with pulmonary hypertension,” Wenderow said.

Vocalis also is interested in developing markers for other chronic diseases, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.