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Helmsley Charitable Trust Funds Effort to Understand the Role of Stress in Managing Crohn’s Disease

4YouandMe to Explore How Wearable and Mobile Devices Can Measure Stress and Predict Symptoms in Crohn’s Disease Patients

Today, The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust announced a $1.7 million grant to 4YouandMe to explore how tracking stress could predict symptoms of Crohn’s disease. Using smartwatches, smart rings, smart scales, and smartphones in a cohort of over 200 people with Crohn’s disease, 4YouandMe will track physiological stress signals and correlate these measures with patient-reported symptoms and clinical outcomes. This study aims to provide insights into the role of stress to guide Crohn’s disease management.

Living with a chronic, inflammatory condition like Crohn’s disease can cause stress and higher rates of depression and anxiety. Because stress measures are subjective, their perceived impact varies by patient – making it difficult to use patients’ self-reported outcomes of stress to guide disease management and treatment. Currently, few existing studies explore the effects of stress, mood, and sleep on the progression of disease.

“Incorporating technology to better understand and manage Crohn’s disease is central to Helmsley’s goal of empowering all patients to improve their quality of life and care,” said Dr. Garabet Yeretssian, Director of Helmsley’s Crohn’s Disease Program. “4YouandMe will fill a critical gap in disease management by providing a valid, data-driven look at how stress impacts people with Crohn’s disease.”

Led by experts in health technology, 4YouandMe explores how smartphones and wearable devices can forecast an individual’s symptom transitions and enable patients to better manage their conditions. 4YouandMe ultimately plans to develop a forecasting algorithm for Crohn’s disease symptoms by using mathematical models that correlate data on patients’ stress responses with their symptom changes.

4YouandMe, founded in 2017 to help lower the burden of chronic disease for all people, is led by Dr. Stephen H. Friend, Chairman of the Board of Directors at Sage Bionetworks where he was co-founder and President. Prior to founding 4YouandMe, Dr. Friend has held positions at Apple Inc. and Merck, and Co Inc., founded and led Rosetta Inpharmatics, and was an Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School.

“We are very pleased to be able to study the feasibility of employing wearables to follow stress and how this might be a factor in the flares seen among patients with Crohn’s disease,” said Dr. Friend. “With our coalition partners at Mount Sinai, Oxford University, Evidation Health, and the Vector Institute, we hope to take the common appreciation that stress plays some role in symptoms of this disease and develop objective measures that individuals might eventually use smartphones and wearables to better co-pilot their own conditions.”


Silan Akgul, Communications Associate