EU-funded project exploits big data for earlier dementia diagnosis

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 16.20.42Earlier diagnosis of dementia and a better understanding of its effect on the body are needed in order to give patients more treatment options and provide researchers with more information on how to develop more effective treatments and new diagnostic techniques. VPH-DARE@IT (Virtual Physiological Human: Dementia Research Enabled by IT) is an EU-supported research project that began in April 2013 and concludes in March 2017. It aims to bring together the skills of leading researchers, clinical specialists, patients and EU citizens to tackle this challenge by using integrated computer platforms that can shorten the path from clinical research to clinical application.

This will result in a viable series of computer platforms that can be used throughout the EU. The first is the clinical research platform (MULTIX) that has been designed to allow researchers to federate large amounts of information such as MRI scans, physiological data, and patient histories; ‘big data’. This big data is a powerful source of information that can be incorporated into the patient care platform (PCP). This lets clinicians input patient data and take advantage of the knowledge generated by the research platform and the clinician’s experience to provide more patient-specific care. This is based around an advanced interactive and user-friendly platform that provides all relevant data to clinicians, supporting them with diagnosis and communication. The PCP will help clinicians to evaluate cognitive and motor skills, as well as lifestyle and environmental factors. This then feeds back into the integrated system, helping to design further clinical studies.
This combined approach also makes use of another vital source of skills and data that has been previously overlooked, the general public. Using a special online citizens’ portal with games and questions, data can be collected from those who are at a risk of developing dementia. The researchers also aim to combine the information from these cognitive games and questions with novel biomarkers, which could provide a new and feasible way to screen for dementia before symptoms appear, providing the right care at the right moment to maximise the quality of life of patients and caregivers and reduce the heath system burden.

The project consortium is made up of 22 partners from across Europe, which includes leading universities, research institutes, major industry and SMEs. The project is managed and coordinated by the Center for Computational Imaging & Simulation Technologies in Biomedicine (CISTIB) at the University of Sheffield with support from the European Institute for Biomedical Imaging (EIBIR) in tasks relating to dissemination to the medical imaging community, the wider scientific community and the general public. EIBIR was founded by the European Society of Radiology (ESR), which has allowed it to liaise closely with patients groups through the ESR Patient Advisory Group (ESR-PAG). This has led to mutual support for dissemination and outreach between EFNA, a member of ESR-PAG, and VPH-DARE@IT, with the project receiving invaluable feedback on patient outreach approaches. This cooperation could serve as a model for further collaboration between EIBIR-supported research projects and ESR-PAG member organisations, giving Europe’s patients a stronger voice in EU-funded projects.

VPH-DARE Youtube Video about the Platforms: