IBM is using artificial intelligence (AI) to map the human brain and help track the progression of Huntington disease, according to a blog post.
Huntington’s disease is one of several neurodegenerative diseases that includes Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The disease is an inherited disorder and has no cure. Early symptoms can be hard to spot and vary from one person to the next. According to IBM, “people with HD show symptoms that start as subtle cognitive and motor changes, but gradually develop into uncontrollable movements and dementia before eventually leading to death.”
To help researchers studying the disease, IBM teamed “with CHDI Foundation, a non-profit biomedical research organization devoted exclusively to collaboratively developing therapeutics that will substantially improve the lives of those affected by HD.” The goal of the collaboration is to use AI to spot patterns in brain scans that can give insights to the progression of the disease, even before symptoms are apparent.
The collaboration won’t immediately result in a cure, but it will offer patients better options for care as the disease progresses, as a result of being able to better monitor the progression. IBM attributes this to the fact that “from a technical point of view HD displays a number of features that distinguish it from other neurodegenerative disorders and not only guide treatment design, but also help us to better understand the disease. In particular, genetic tests make it possible to study its progression many years before the onset of symptoms. In fact, several large studies followed hundreds of people with and without the HD mutation over time (4a, 4b, 4c). This set-up is optimal for building AI models that can learn the earliest signs of the disease in the brain and can inform ongoing and future clinical changes.”
While there is still a long way to go in the fight against Huntington’s, IBM’s involvement is giant step in the right direction and will likely result in tangible qualify-of-life improvements for patients suffering with the disease.