Tags: alzheimers | spread | computer | model

How Alzheimer's Spreads in Brain Captured by Computer Model

(YouTube/Stanford University, Stevens Institute of Technology)

By    |   Monday, 15 October 2018 04:22 PM

Scientists can now show how Alzheimer’s spreads in the brain over a 30-year period using a new Stanford University computer model, as described in the Physical Review Letter.

“What our model does is connect the dots between the static data points, mathematically, to show disease progression in unprecedented detail,” said Stanford mechanical engineer and study co-author Ellen Kuhl who likened the Alzheimer's process to a domino effect.

Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis produce hallmark clumps of defective, misfolded proteins that build up in the brain, leading to cell death and accelerated tissue atrophy.

The team of Stanford researchers knew this going in to their study, which involved analyzing the brain slices from people who died after developing one of the three diseases.

Previous research relied on staining those brain slices to reveal the presence of the defective protein clusters, but in this study scientists then used mathematical modeling to simulate how the defective proteins progress from sparse clumps to widespread clusters in the brain as the diseases advance.

Kuhl and her team looked at the progression of two specific proteins that form toxic clumps in the brain and, through their computer modeling system, were able to create simulations showing the ways in which the disease spreads.

Kuhl said the ability to model neurodegenerative disorders could lead to better diagnostic tests and ultimately treatment to slow down the effects of the disease.

This, she said, was imperative considering how the disease is growing across the country.

In the U.S., Alzheimer's is the sixth leading cause of death, with fatalities rising to 123 percent between 2000 and 2015, The Alzheimer's Association noted.

An estimated 5.7 million Americans are living with the disease and that number is expected to rise to 14 million by 2050.

Early detection is difficult as the disease can only be diagnosed once symptoms start to show and experts estimate that 46 million Americans could be in the early stages of the brain disease.

“Given the aging of the population, by mid-century 135 million people worldwide will have some form of dementia,” Kuhl said. “We have to find new ways to spur research toward diagnostics and interventions, and computer modeling can play a key role in identifying new therapeutic targets.”

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Scientists can now show how Alzheimer’s spreads in the brain over a 30-year period using a new Stanford University computer model.
alzheimers, spread, computer, model
Monday, 15 October 2018 04:22 PM
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