Four Pronged Approach
The first five years of the Aging Brain Program are devoted to a four-pronged approach that consists of project- and team-based research projects. Our efforts focus on supporting bench-to-bedside research through collaborative seed grants with the potential for cross-disciplinary fellowship programs. More specifically, four program areas are detailed below that specify project goals within these suggested programs:
Area I. Artificial Intelligence to Identify Aging Biomarkers
Mapping the human genome was accomplished fifteen years ago and was heralded as laying the foundational map for mapping genetic variation to human pathology. However, much remains to be understood about how genetic information is translated by and between cells in our body, and how this information can be leveraged to impact the development of medicinal discoveries.
Breakthroughs in DNA sequencing and bioinformatics, rapid genome editing techniques, low-cost gene expression assays, effective animal models of disease, and global high-resolution proteomics make big data approaches to biological sciences possible and data-mining essential. In collecting large data sets we will train deep-learning artificial intelligence tools to find the targets for aging biomarker and drug development. Utilizing data bio-informatics, drug development, demographic analyses we aim to pinpoint the genetic risk factors that underlie Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Additionally, our projects will utilize human stem-cells to map mutations that will lead to the development diagnostic tools that alert medical doctors to patients with Alzheimer’s disease well before they become symptomatic.
Area II. Develop Brain-Circuit Specific Therapeutics
The past five years have witnessed impressive advances in neuro-circuit technologies, many of which were developed by MIT professors - from laser control of neurons to new clarifying techniques that allow visual access deep inside the brain - all with incredible potential to accelerate our understanding of disease mechanisms. We can now see, hear, and precisely regulate the neural circuits and brain activity patterns that encode our memories, translate our movements, and predict our decisions. We can leverage these new technologies and results to retrieve and rebuild lost memories that base high level cognitive function. Our goal is to produce more effective but non-invasive tools to revert memory and cognitive decline and ameliorate persistent side effects of current therapies. We propose to utilize our neuroscience and engineering technologies to create a detailed map of the brain, from neuronal pathways, to activation profiles, to genetic interactions with end result of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia related therapies.
Area III. Personalize Approaches to Treatment
Personalized molecular-based medicine or the customization of health care using molecular analysis, is increasingly necessary for effective medical decision making. Improved clinical practice and products tailored to the individual patient will be crucial to define dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in each patient as every case is unique. Even within Alzheimer’s disease, there are expected sub-category pathologies with differences in disease progression that will need individualized study and screening to develop proper treatments. Research and clinical partnerships will work with a bench to bedside (and back to bench) strategy to rapidly advance personalized medicine that exhaustively categorizes patients into the appropriate therapeutic groups.
Area IV. Uncovering the Demographics of Healthy Aging
By developing strategies to promote healthy aging we will work to ensure that age and experience expand life’s possibilities rather than limit cognitive abilities. Neuroscientists do not know why certain older people positively adapt to late-stage life while others do not. Brain and cognitive sciences, urban planning, economics, systems engineering, and artificial intelligence research collaborations are focusing on how to build brain resilience through proper social support and non-intrusive brain stimulation.
Advanced technologies from our four-pronged approach aim to develop new treatment options, create preventative behavioral programs, and engineer diagnostic tools and smart home technologies. We expect to apply the outcomes of our four-pronged approach to clinical and home markets within two to fifteen years. As progress accelerates, collaborative networks will expand to include larger research platforms and new biological aging resources for researchers worldwide. Our ultimate goal is to bring immediate and practical solutions for the treatment and care of people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.