Researchers in Japan will trawl through
huge amounts of data to search for possible precursors to Alzheimer's Disease
in a bid to identify who might develop a condition affecting millions around
The study, which involves the healthcare
arm of General Electric, will be based on a health survey that Hirosaki
University in the northern prefecture of Aomori has been conducting for years.
The survey is in its 10th year and includes
a total of 9000 residents in the prefecture, covering subjects as diverse as
bacteria in bowels to dental health, density of bone and athletic ability, an
official at Hirosaki University said.
More than 300 areas are covered, including
blood pressure, pulse rate and other bodily data as well as information on
lifestyle and family history of disease.
are researchers hoping to achieve?
Researchers also hope to collect genetic
information, pending individual approval, said officials from the university
and GE Healthcare Japan.
Blood samples from the people surveyed
previously have been kept frozen but their genetic information has not been
Researchers are also mulling ways to track
down people who stopped coming to annual health checks because, if they have
developed dementia, it could give clues to which factors they should keep an
The data would be used for analysis in co-operation
with GE in the hope of finding precursors to Alzheimer's Disease, the officials
The study, which could be extended over
nine years, is being funded by the government in Japan, which is grappling with
the challenges posed by a rapidly ageing population that is living longer.
Researchers are hoping to develop "an
epoch-making method to find predictors of brain disorder" by analysing
massive amounts of data with new software, according to a project summary
posted on the science and technology ministry's website.
Alzheimer's Disease is the most common form
of dementia, which is a growing social problem for Japan.
Worldwide, 35.6 million people suffer from
the problem and there are 7.7 million new cases every year, according to a 2012
report from the World Health Organisation.
In 2010 the total global societal cost of
dementia was estimated to be $604 billion, according to Alzheimer's Disease
International, a federation of Alzheimer associations around the world.
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