4 September 2019, Copenhagen, Denmark
The “AD Detect and Prevent” project, which is led by the Danish digital therapeutics company Brain+, is pursuing the ambitious aim of developing a digital tool to improve the detection of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) prior to the possible onset of dementia and combining this with lifestyle programmes for reducing lifestyle risk related to Alzheimer’s dementia. To achieve this, the project brings together a diverse group of partners with strong expertise in brain health, dementia, clinical neuroscience, neuroimaging and patient advocacy. The partners are Brain+, University of Oxford, Aarhus University, University of Nottingham, Alzheimer Europe and the European Brain Council. The project kicked-off in November 2018, is progressing fast and will continue over the next two years.
“We cannot cure Alzheimer’s yet, but with the right science and technology, the disease can be discovered earlier for millions. Also, people can be helped to reduce their risk of the disease by making the right improvements to their lifestyle.” says Kim Baden-Kristensen, CEO, Brain+.
To date, dementia remains an incurable condition that affects around 9 million people in Europe1, many of whom have a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s dementia. Research has shown that the pathology associated with Alzheimer’s disease is present in the brain decades before symptom onset and its detection indicates a higher risk of developing the condition. Recent promising work in the field of AD prevention suggests that controlling some lifestyle factors (e.g. diabetes, hypertension and social isolation) may play an important role in reducing the risk of developing dementia and that “more than a third of dementia cases might, theoretically, be preventable” (Livingston et al. 2017:2674)2.
Researchers from the University of Oxford have recently developed a novel method that has the potential to identify individuals who are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease but have not yet experienced overt cognitive symptoms. Also, Brain+, a digital therapeutics company located in Copenhagen has developed a digital platform for adaptive cognitive training and rehabilitation, and behavioural programmes for brain health. The objective of the AD Detect and Prevent project is to develop an integrated and seamless solution for people at increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s dementia. The solution will combine, gamify and further develop the novel detection method designed by the University of Oxford with the digital therapeutics platform developed by Brain+.
“This is a very exciting development which, we hope, will show real potential to improve early detection of Alzheimer’s disease.” says Prof. Masud Husain, University of Oxford.
This integrated tool aims to first detect subtle cognitive signs associated with Alzheimer’s disease (before the possible emergence of clear symptoms) and to subsequently provide personalized intervention programmes that address risk factors connected to Alzheimer’s dementia. The University of Oxford, the University of Nottingham and Aarhus University will collaborate and carry out rigorous research studies to investigate the potential of this innovative tool.
The research studies that aim to test this tool are scheduled to start during the second half of 2019. Brain+ and the University of Oxford have been developing and testing various prototypes of the AD Detect tool in order to gain insight into the type of format that provides the best user experience whilst remaining a robust tool for the detection of the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease. The team at Aarhus University will validate the AD Detect tool with biomarkers detected by Positron Emission Tomography (PET) brain scan. Finally, researchers in Computer Science at the University of Nottingham will study the longitudinal use of the AD Prevent tool whilst researchers from NIHR MindTech MedTech Cooperative at the Institute of Mental Health, also at the University of Nottingham, will run Public and Patient Involvement (PPI) workshops with people with Alzheimer’s disease and their carers to explore the user dimension of the AD Detect and Prevent tool. Alzheimer Europe is also involved in the PPI work.
The AD Detect and Prevent tool is designed to be user-friendly and easily accessible, and will be delivered on various types of devices such as tablets, smartphones and computers. This digital solution will be initially launched in Denmark and the United Kingdom in 2020 but the consortium hopes to expand the tool to other European countries.
It is estimated that approximately 9 million people in Europe are living with dementia and this number is expected to increase to 14 million by 20401. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common condition leading to dementia as it is the underlying cause in 70% of dementia cases3. Dementia is a major cause of disability and dependency and has a great impact on the lives of people with the condition, their relatives and society.
Despite the high prevalence of Alzheimer’s dementia across Europe, detecting this condition before symptoms occur can be extremely challenging and diagnosis is often made late in the disease process. Consequently, it is often the case that when this condition is diagnosed, it has already caused significant nerve damage leading to impaired memory, thought processes, behaviour and social skills.
Prof. Monica Di Luca, president of the European Brain Council, concludes with the following: “The work of the consortium will contribute towards generating a robust, ethical, evidence-based ‘AD Detect and Prevent’ tool to improve early detection of Alzheimer’s disease and to address issues linked to the management of risk and prevention. In addition, it will encourage lifestyle changes which could potentially help to reduce the addressable risk of dementia.”
The AD Detect and Prevent consortium
- Aarhus University
- Alzheimer Europe
- European Brain Council
- University of Oxford
- University of Nottingham
Follow us on twitter: @addp_eu
Aarhus University: @AarhusUni
Alzheimer Europe: @AlzheimerEurope
University of Oxford: @UniofOxford
University of Nottingham: @UniofNottingham
Contacts and further information:
- Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Health at a Glance: Europe 2018. Accesible at: https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/docserver/health_glance_eur-2018-19-en.pdf?expires=1553167419&id=id&accname=guest&checksum=0B03B99DB601B7F67A7063D89CF730EA
- Livingston et al. (2017). Dementia, prevention, intervention, and care. The Lancet, Vol. 390, Issue 10113, pp. 2673-2734. Accessible at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(17)31363-6
- European Brain Council. The potential benefit of treating Alzheimer’s disease before the onset of dementia, 2018. Accessible at: https://www.braincouncil.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/The-Potential-Benefit-of-Treating-Alzheimers-Disease-Before-the-Onset-of-Dementia.pdf
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 820636.