The global aging population has placed neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, among the biggest public health challenges of 21st century healthcare. It is vital to understand the underlying mechanisms of these diseases to discover differences and similarities that can inform diagnosis, prognosis, monitoring, therapy development and treatment and care decisions. In short, to treat neurodegenerative diseases, we must first understand how each disease develops and progresses.
We will test the prion (infectious agent) hypothesis of neurodegenerative disease against competing hypotheses.
Computer-based mathematical descriptions, or models, can predict patterns of disease progression and spread. We will compare these predictions to measurements made in humans in large, international studies of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. The models that are the best predictors of the observed disease patterns will give us new insight into how these diseases spread.
Impact on Diagnosis/Treatment of Parkinson’s Disease:
Neurodegenerative diseases share a lot of similarities. Our approach will highlight differences in the ways that Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease develop. This is a crucial step towards accurate diagnosis of neurodegenerative diseases that will influence decisions from treatment to care.
Next Steps for Development:
Clinical application of the knowledge generated by this study will involve development of a software package that uses the disease progression models and observations (e.g., medical images) to predict the most likely neurodegenerative disease that an individual might develop