Roche partners with Cardiff researchers to uncover new research into dementia

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Affecting 55 million people globally, dementia impairs the ability to remember, think or make decisions

Roche and the Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre (CUBRIC) have partnered to uncover new research to understand the structural changes of dementia.

Using cutting-edge imaging and machine learning (ML), researchers will analyse the brains of patients living with Parkinson’s disease (PD) and Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

Dementia is a general term used for the impaired ability to remember, think or make decisions that interferes with day-to-day activities and affects 55 million people globally, according to Alzheimer’s Society.

Currently the most common form of dementia, AD is a progressive neurological disease that affects the part of the brain that controls thought, memory and language.

PD is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that affects the body’s nervous system. The main symptoms include shaking, slow movements and stiffness.

The study will use advanced MRI to understand the bigger structural changes in the brain that occur in PD and AD to changes at a microscopic level to help advance earlier detection of the diseases in a non-invasive way.

According to professor Derek Jones, school of psychology, direct or CUBRIC, researchers will utilise the Siemen’s Connectom scanner and Siemens 7T MRI, as well as mathematical modelling and cutting-edge ML, “to investigate small and large changes in the brain of those with PD and AD”.

Dr Marco Palombo, school of psychology and school of computer science and informatics, CUBRIC, said: “By furthering our understanding, we can help develop processes for earlier diagnosis, monitor treatment responses and understand the impacts of potential new drug-based treatments.

“The responsible development of explainable ML methods for image processing, analysis and interpretation will be pivotal to achieving wide impact in clinics.”

In January, Cardiff University researchers linked variants of the EphA1 gene, involved in T cell immune response in the brain, to AD and a specific genetic variant, P460L, to reveal that it impacted T cell immune responses, increasing the risk of late-onset AD.

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