Massive study aims to determine how to prevent brain disease

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The Cleveland Clinic is embarking on an initiative to collect images and health information from 200,000 participants to catch diseases before symptoms arise.


Cleveland Clinic begins study to collect data using state-of-the-art technology to try to find markers indicating risk of neurological diseases – such as Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, stroke brain damage and more – before symptoms occur.

Called the Cleveland Clinic Brain Study, the initiative aims to collect data from 200,000 neurologically healthy people over a 20-year period. Researchers will use the information as a basis for identifying biomarkers and targets for brain disease.

The study, which will include organizations around the world, will seek to identify potential neurological problems before problems become evident, which will help prevent and cure the disorder.

The need for a preventive understanding of these disorders is enormous – one in six people worldwide suffer from a neurological disease, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, stroke or multiple sclerosis. Although great advances have been made in treatment, little is known about how to predict who will get sick, and little is known about stopping the progression of these diseases.

The study, led by researchers at the Cleveland Clinic Neurological Institute, will begin at the organization’s main campus and over time expand to other Cleveland Clinic sites,

The scope of the study, as well as the range of data collected, will require extensive computing capabilities, data storage, and the ability to integrate various forms of patient information to enable researchers to search for commonalities in the data.

Brain MRI of the first participant in a study starting at the Cleveland Clinic. Photo by Lisa DeJong

The initial phase of the study is expected to recruit 10,000 volunteers over the first five years. These participants will include adults 50 and older with no known neurological disorder or neurologically healthy adults over the age of 20 who have a close relative who has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

Participants, who do not have to be current patients of the organization, will undergo annual evaluations, including neurological examination, blood tests, ocular retina scans, brain MRI imaging, EEG studies and sleep and other tests of cognitive function.

The researchers expect to use a variety of advanced computer tools to collect data points from the volunteers. The premise of the study is that the data collected “will form a trend line to capture genetic risk factors and invisible molecular, structural, neurophysiological and cognitive/memory changes in the brain over time,” an announcement noted. .

Researchers will then use advanced analytics to help uncover early indications of potential diseases that will help guide future diagnostic and preventive drug indications.

“By researching healthy and at-risk people over the course of 20 years, we will learn what is happening in the brain and body before a neurological disease is diagnosed,” said Imad Najm, MD, co-director of the research initiative and vice-president. President of the Neurological Institute for Strategy and Development.

“We are building a foundation to screen one person at a time – potentially with something as routine as a blood test – to diagnose brain disease on the spot and prevent it from happening altogether,” added Najm, who is also director of Cleveland Clinic. Charles Shor Epilepsy Center and Joseph H. and Ell B. Thomas Endowment Chair in Epilepsy.

“Our hope is to change the course of neurodegeneration, with the long-term goal of curing diseases in their earliest stages, years before symptoms even appear,” said Andre Machado, MD, co-lead. of the project and president of the Neurological Institute.

More information about the initiative can be found here.

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