AI Could Be The Key To Combating Alzheimer’s
Is technology the key to protect your brain?
Thanks to machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), researchers are able to locate Alzheimer’s precursors quicker than ever before. This is incredible because currently, our best strategy against Alzheimer’s disease is prevention, especially due to the aging population.
2.6 million to 5.1 million Americans aged 65 and older likely have Alzheimer’s disease, according to the National Institutes of Health. Currently, the cost of Alzheimer’s patients care is estimated to be more than $100 billion a year. Diagnoses of Alzheimer’s is expected to triple by 2050 if researchers don’t find a way to prevent or treat the disease, according to an estimate by the NIH.
This means that in the United States, every 66 seconds someone develops the most common form of dementia, Alzheimer’s. And by 2050, it will be every 33 seconds, the Alzheimer’s Association reports.
As of this time, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. In 2010, Congress passed the National Alzheimer’s Project Act, to create a goal to prevent or sufficiently treat Alzheimer’s by 2025. Data storage and machine learning assist researchers as technology advances, faster results are produced for researchers.
“What scientists see going on is that there is just so much data exploration that you can’t just see with the human eye — see Jupiter as Galileo did, or see evolution like Darwin did,” explains Michael Weiner, principal investigator at the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, an open database for research known as ADNI. “You need computation techniques that can sift through huge amounts of data and detect patterns, and that’s what machine learning and artificial intelligence can do.”
ADNI started in 2004 serving as the first open information database for researchers. This allows anyone to view and use data to conduct research. It’s very unusual considering scientists typically compete to publish breakthroughs first without sharing any information while conducting a study.
As ADNI data is utilized, researchers can return to ask more specific inquiries or add to the database allowing others to retest and verify their discoveries.
This is expanding genetic research immensely. As information is gathered from multiple blood samples, RNA, DNA, and other sources expand, more precise technology will be necessary to sort through and locate specific information that is required to develop drugs, increase early detection, or figure out who’s at risk the most.
DNA variants across the genome have “subtle differences from one person to the next,” said Richard Pither, CEO of Cytox Ltd. “They might confirm a very, very small risk or very, very small advantage regarding future Alzheimer’s disease. But if you start looking at patterns, what you can find are combinations of risks associated with DNA variants, which can lead to an overall enhanced risk profile.”