Can A.I. blood analysis predict Alzheimer’s progress?

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Artificial intelligence analysis of blood samples can predict and explain neurodegenerative disease progression, researchers report.

The technique could one day help doctors choose more appropriate and effective treatments for patients.

Researchers used an artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm to analyze the blood and postmortem brain samples of 1,969 patients with Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s disease. Their goal was to find molecular patterns specific to these diseases.

The algorithm could detect how these patients’ genes expressed themselves in unique ways over decades. This offers the first long-term view of molecular changes underlying neurodegeneration, an important accomplishment because neurodegenerative diseases develop over years, researchers say.

Previous studies of neurodegeneration often used static or “snapshot” data, which limits how much they can reveal about the typically slow progression of disease. This study aimed to uncover the chronological information contained in large-scale data by covering decades of disease progression, revealing how changes in gene expression over that time relate to changes in the patient’s condition.

Furthermore, the blood test detected 85 to 90% of the top predictive molecular pathways that the test of postmortem brain data did, showing a striking similarity between molecular alterations in both the brain and peripheral body.

“This test could one day be used by doctors to evaluate patients and prescribe therapies tailored to their needs,” says first author Yasser Iturria-Medina, an assistant professor in the neurology and neurosurgery department at McGill University. “It could also be used in clinical trials to categorize patients and better determine how experimental drugs impact their predicted disease progression.”

Iturria-Medina says his next steps will be testing these models in other diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

The results appear in the journal Brain.

Researchers used data openly available through the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) and the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago. Additional scientists from The Neuro (Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital) of McGill University and the Ludmer Centre for Neuroinformatics and Mental Health contributed to the work.

McGill University’s Healthy Brain for Healthy Lives Initiative, the Ludmer Centre, and the Brain Canada Foundation, and Health Canada support to the McConnell Brain Imaging Centre at The Neuro funded the study.

Source: McGill University