Globally, there were an estimated 44.4 million people with dementia in 2013. That number is set to 75.6 million by 2030, and 135.5 million in 2050, placing increasing amounts of pressure on the medical community to prevent, slow or stop the disease. The lack of proper treatment for Alzheimer’s has been mobilizing new allies in a fight towards global eradication of this disease.
With the advent and permeation of big data into healthcare, scientists believe they have a new instrument to fight the disease.
The method will involve sifting through the troves of medical information of patients, with the aid of a supercomputer which would involve all possible tests and scans in order to glean patterns that might point towards a link and cause of neurodegenerative disorders, reports an article published in The Globe and Mail.
Michael Strong, the dean of the school of medicine and dentistry at the University of Western Ontario notes, “Up until really quite recently, most of these studies have tried to link together one or two variables. So we have [brain] imaging and we look at cognition or we have genetics and we look at behaviour.”
Being able to collate a substantial amount of variables through a single pool of data, would open up new horizons, said Dr. Strong, the lead in a $28.5-million Ontario research project that is looking to integrate Big Data in treatment of brain diseases.
Challenges lie ahead as aggregating, categorizing and sharing a large amount of patient data globally is “proving to be a legal, ethical and logistical” issue. On Monday, a workshop in this regard was carried out by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, in Toronto that saw the attendance of more than 50 scientists and doctors, some from the field of computers, policy experts and patient advocates.
As the global age mark- and the number neurodegenerative disorders- continue to rise, Governments and healthcare institutes are taking heed to put up a better fight against this growing issue.
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(Image Credit: Ann Gordon)