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Ground-breaking ‘earbud’ test for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s



A ground-breaking at-home ‘earbud’ test could pave the way for the early detection, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of serious brain diseases.

Researchers are developing and testing a novel electroencephalogram (EEG) system similar to a pair of in-ear headphones that maps brain activity during sleep and could help diagnose neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s from the data collected.

Serious brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are usually diagnosed too late for optimal treatment.

But this new project to develop and test scalable home health care technology could identify signs of the two diseases up to 15 years in advance – potentially revolutionising their prevention and treatment.

Researchers from Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen and Aarhus University have joined forces with the Danish health technology company, T&W Engineering, to push forward with the project, which has received DKK 15 million backing from the Innovation Fund Denmark.

This will see the specially developed measuring device tested on patient groups both with and without Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. The aim is to examine whether it is possible to use the technology to screen patients for the two serious brain diseases.

The ear-EEG technology reads the brain’s electrical activity and gently maps sleep patterns. Recent research has shown that a person’s sleep patterns can indicate early signs of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

The Ear-EEG is simple so it can be used at home and over a longer period. Credit: Aarhus University / Sebastian Krog Knudsen

Professor Preben Kidmose, who is the head of the Center for Ear-EEG at Aarhus University, said: “Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are diseases that creep up over many years. They’re usually only discovered when you start to develop cognitive and memory-related problems, sleep disturbances or disturbances in the musculoskeletal system, for example.

“Diagnosis is generally so late that the only treatment option is to treat the symptoms. In the project, we’re going to try to identify signs of the two diseases 10-15 years before the first problems begin to occur, and if we can, far better treatment options will be possible.”

Serious brain diseases are extremely burdensome for patients and their relatives. They are also a growing financial burden for the healthcare sector globally.

More than 10 million people are living with Parkinson’s around the world, and its prevalence has more than doubled in the past 25 years. According to the World Health Organisation, over 55 million have dementia, around 60% of whom live in low and middle income countries.

The small device being developed by the Danish project measures the extremely small voltage changes on the surface of the skin caused by electrical activity in the brain’s neurons, and is a far more gentle and less intrusive technology than traditional sleep measurements.

The Progression Assessment in Neurodegenerative Disorders of Ageing (PANDA) project device is also equipped with an oximeter to measure oxygen in the blood, a thermometer, and a microphone that can listen to breathing and heartbeat, much like a stethoscope.

Professor Poul Jørgen Jennum, doctor of Medical Science and head of the Danish Centre for Sleep Medicine at Rigshospitalet., explained:  “We hope that we’ll be able to use the ear-EEG to replace in part the existing and somewhat more troublesome sleep monitoring. We’ll try to make the technology so simple that it can be used at home and over a longer period of time.

“Ideally, we hope it will be possible to measure your own sleep over a few days, weeks, or even months every year. The aim is to identify changes that may be early signs of serious brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and to diagnose patients more easily and earlier than today. This would be a great advantage.”

He continued: “Another advantage is that we can examine patients in their everyday lives, and monitor changes in sleep patterns and the effect of treatments. This makes the potential ear-EEG technology a good screening tool that can be used at home – just like a blood pressure meter.”

Ear-EEG can measure the electrical activity of the brain and map sleep patterns. Credit: Aarhus University / Sebastian Krog Knudsen

It was the opportunity to develop home health care technology that attracted T&W Engineering. The company’s specialist area is portable health technologies that provide a very accurate picture of patients’ health and provide more effective care, preferably at home.

The company’s CEO, Richard Tøpholm, said: “We want to support the vision of a patient-centric and data driven healthcare system, and we aim to have technological solutions in patients’ homes so that they don’t have to go to hospitals.

“Dementia is a major problem that we’ve been struggling with for a long time without getting very far, and the methods currently available are not scalable and not suitable for repeated measurements to trace or monitor disease progression.

“If we can develop solutions that involve patients in their own homes, we can begin to build up much better health profiles, so that we can assign patients for the more intrusive examinations and final diagnosis far earlier. I very much hope that we can help make a difference in this area, which means so much for so many people.”

The PANDA project will run for four years, and has a total budget of DKK 26 million.

Rigshospitalet’s role is to perform clinical tests and collect data, while T&W Engineering is responsible for integrating the various sensors into the ear-borne apparatus.

Aarhus University is responsible for developing the biomarker algorithms, and T&W Engineering will develop the diagnostic support system used by clinicians.


Early Alzheimer’s prediction platform secures €21 million investment



PREDICTOM Dag Aarsland. Photo: Frida Moberg.
PREDICTOM's Dag Aarsland. Photo: Frida Moberg.

The project aims to identify people at risk of dementia before symptoms appear.

More than 7 million people are living with dementia in the EU. This number is projected to double, reaching 14 million by 2050.

There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Although the search for potential treatments is showing promise, it is anticipated that these medications will be most effective in the early stages of the disease.

The recently launched AI screening platform, PREDICTOM aims to identify individuals at risk of developing dementia, even before symptoms manifest.

The cognitive and biomarker screening platform has this week announced it will be backed by €21 million in funding, with €8 million from the EU, €9 million from industry and €4 million from UKRI.

A consortium of 30 partners from academia, business, civil society and hospitals is steering the project. The Consortium includes partners from 15 countries across Europe, Asia and America and is led by Stavanger University Hospital.

Dag Aarsland, Professor of Old Age Psychiatry at King’s College London and research lead at Stavanger University Hospital, is the leading the project.

“Detecting early signs of dementia is key to slowing its progression. Unfortunately, a majority of those at risk are not identified in time. Our platform seeks to change this by enabling early discovery, allowing timely intervention and preventative treatment,” Aarsland said.

A crucial aspect of PREDICTOM is that much of the screening can be performed by the patients themselves in the comfort of their homes.

By initiating the process at home, the project aims to reduce strain on healthcare services and associated costs. Biomarkers, including saliva, stool, digital markers and blood via prick-tests, will be collected at participants’ homes or GP offices, streamlining a process traditionally carried out in hospitals or specialised clinics.

More than 4000 participants will partake in PREDICTOM’s trial project. The samples will be based on a pool of people from previous initiatives like PROTECT UK, PROTECT Norway and Radar-AD, as well as people from the catchment area of other participating centres in Germany, France, Switzerland, Belgium and Spain.

“If our project succeeds, there will be significant savings in both cost and time,” Aarsland said

After the home collection, samples will be sent to PREDICTOM, where their platform will process the participant data, integrating blood, cerebrospinal fluid, imaging, electrophysiological and digital biomarkers.

AI algorithms will generate risk assessments, early diagnoses and prognoses, laying the foundation for early intervention and treatment.

This project is part of the Innovative Health Initiative (IHI), a public-private partnership (PPP) between the European Union and the European life science industries.

“We are very pleased to have such a robust team with top notch expertise spanning diverse fields, including IT, AI, medicine, ageing research and professionals from both small and large businesses,” Aarsland added.

The project runs from 1st November 2023 to 31st October 2027.

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New partnership to bring dementia-specific programmes to Washington State



Washington state dementia

The partnership will bring non-pharmacological interventions for dementia and alternatives to high-cost drugs to patients across Washington State.

A new partnership between brain health company, Together Senior Health and accountable care organisation, Rainier Health Network,

The partnership will introduce Together’s suite of dementia-specific programs, including in-home virtual interventions, to patients across Rainier Health Network in Washington state where the organisation oversees the healthcare of over 60,000 Medicare patients.

Alzheimer’s and related dementias affect more than 6.7 million Americans with 14 million projected cases by 2060. The associated healthcare costs for individuals with dementia are among the highest of any condition. Payers and providers face significant challenges in managing this expanding population.

According to a recent survey conducted by Sage Growth Partners, 77 per cent of health plans and value-based care organizations agree the need to address the growing cost of ADRD is urgent or very urgent; however, only 4 per cent have a fully-developed solution in place to support this population.

Approximately half of those surveyed also indicated a concern with the costs of Leqembi and other high-cost pharmaceuticals.

Together’s Moving Together programme offers a non-pharmacological intervention for dementia and a safe alternative to high-cost drugs that are not clinically appropriate for many dementia patients and have potential side effects.

The programme allows payers and risk-bearing healthcare organisations to more effectively manage patients. Together Senior Health says the programme results in improved engagement, reduced costs and improved health outcomes.

Recently, the company has been gaining industry traction. In addition to its partnership with Rainer Health Network, the firm is affiliated with the likes of VNS Health, VillageMD and the Alzheimer’s Association.

“Supporting our members with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias is critical,” said Dr Francis Mercado chief medical officer and board chair at Rainier Health Network.It’s a vulnerable population and Together Senior Health’s Moving Together™ solution is a proven, natural way to improve their lives and control costs.”

Together’s Moving Together™ programme is based on over ten years of clinical research in neuroscience with the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Results from Together’s randomised control trial show statistically significant improvements in quality of life for individuals with cognitive decline and in caregiver ability to manage stress. The data also shows a reduction in falls and proven annual cost savings of up to $4,300 per participant per year.

Caregivers in the programme have also benefited, reporting enhanced caregiving skills.

Together is in the process of commercialising RADAR, its proprietary dementia identification and stratification algorithm. The algorithm helps payors and risk-bearing healthcare organisations identify people at highest risk for Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and cognitive decline using claims data, electronic health record information and other relevant data.

“We are proud of the positive impact Together is making on the lives of those affected by dementia and are excited to partner with one of the nation’s premier ACOs to extend dementia-specific programs to its patients,” said Alissa Meade, CEO of Together Senior Health.

“Rainier Health Network, Virginia Mason Franciscan Health and Together share a deep commitment to providing holistic dementia solutions that enrich the lives of participants while empowering forward-thinking, risk-bearing organizations to engage and manage this rapidly growing patient population effectively.”

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One in 25 carry genotype associated with shortened lifespan



Genotype associated with shortened lifespan found in 1 in 25.
Kari Stefansson, Patrick Sulem and Brynjar Örn Jensson scientists at deCODE genetics and authors on the paper

The study used genomic data from 58,000 Icelanders and discovered the presence of a life-shortening genotype across 4 per cent of the population.

Scientists at deCODE Genetics, a subsidiary of Amgen, have published a study on actionable genotypes detected in the Icelandic population and their association with lifespan.

The researchers determined that 1 in 25 individuals carried an actionable genotype and have, on average, a shortened lifespan.

“The identification and disclosure of actionable genotypes to participants can guide clinical decision-making, which may result in improved patient outcomes,” said Kari Stefansson, author of the paper and CEO of deCODE Genetics. “This knowledge therefore has significant potential to mitigate disease burden for individuals and society as a whole.”

The study, published today in the New England Journal of Medicine, focuses on genotypes that increase the risk of a disease for which preventive or therapeutic measures have been established. These genotypes are termed actionable genotypes.

The scientists used a population-based data set, consisting of 58,000 whole-genome sequenced Icelanders, to assess the fraction of individuals carrying actionable genotypes.

Using a list of 73 actionable genes from the guidelines from the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics (ACMG), the scientists found that 4 per cent of Icelanders carry an actionable genotype in one or more of these genes. The diseases caused by these genotypes include cardiovascular, cancer and metabolic diseases.

The study assessed the relationship between actionable genotypes and the lifespan of their carriers. The largest effect was observed among carriers of cancer-predisposing genotypes, which had three years shorter median survival than non-carriers.

A pathogenic variant in BRCA2, predisposing to breast, ovarian and pancreatic cancer, shortened lifespan by seven years and a variant in LDLR, which causes high levels of cholesterol and cardiovascular disease, shortened lifespan by six years.

“Our results suggest that the actionable genotypes identified in our study, which are all predicted to cause serious disease, may have a drastic effect on lifespan,” said Patrick Sulem author of the paper and scientist at deCODE Genetics.

The results showed that carriers of particular actionable genotypes were more likely to have died from the disease caused by these genotypes. Individuals with a pathogenic variant in BRCA2, have a seven-fold risk of dying from breast, ovarian or pancreatic cancer.

They are also 3.5 times more likely to develop prostate cancer and seven times more likely to die from prostate cancer than those who do not carry the variant.

The results of this study are among the factors that have motivated the government of Iceland to announce a nationwide effort in precision medicine.

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