DECIDE for alzheimer’s sufferers

New International Research Project Improves Lives For Alzheimer’s Sufferers

DECIDE infrastructure combines high speed GÉANT and national research networks with powerful computers to enable earlier diagnosis and treatment

At the Alzheimer’s Europe conference which has just ended a new research project which has the potential to help people who suffer from Alzheimer’s and several other dementia conditions has been showcased.

DECIDE, which stands for Diagnostic Enhancement of Confidence by an International Distributed Environment, helps doctors to make a better diagnosis of such conditions and this can help patients to have a higher quality-of-life. It can also make life easier for those responsible for caring for them. The service is based on statistical parametric modelling and was tested in the early part of 2011. What it is capable of was shown at the conference.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s and many other dementia conditions associated with it. In the UK three quarters of a million people suffer from such conditions and an improved diagnosis system will mean they can get better care. The DECIDE system allows doctors to log onto a secure system where they can put up a patients scans. From here high-powered computers will process and analyse the data and feed the results back to the doctor.

Through the use of advanced medical imaging technology, the neurological data that researchers and clinicians collect is increasing dramatically. However as data has grown, so has the computing power needed to manage and analyse it, making it too difficult and expensive for individual hospitals.

DECIDE solves this issue by bringing together high speed research networks, distributed databases, powerful diagnostic algorithms and grid computing to provide a secure, user-friendly service to clinicians across Europe. Currently DECIDE has over 1,000 CPU computing processors, with 70 terabytes of storage and is working in partnership with the pan-European GÉANT network, as well as Italian national network GARR, to design a network that matches its needs. GÉANT works with types of medical networks and to make it seamless and transparent to the end user, GÉANT’s perfSONAR monitoring tool is being used to monitor service across the multiple network domains that make up the DECIDE infrastructure.

“Enabling earlier diagnosis of conditions such as Alzheimer’s is critical to improved patient care,” said Fulvio Galeazzi, DECIDE Project Coordinator. “DECIDE will ensure that the diagnostic process is much more straightforward and simple, using distributed computing resources and the power of the GÉANT network to create an advanced e-infrastructure that spans the entire European medical community and enable clinicians to make better informed decisions, at the click of a mouse. Our demonstration at the Alzheimer Europe event showed the potential of the service both in research and underpinning earlier diagnoses.”

DECIDE, which is funded by the European Union, is an international project that brings together 13 research teams and organisations from across Europe. These include the Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine in London, GARR, the Italian research and education network, Alzheimer Europe and the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Toulouse (France), acting on behalf of the European Alzheimer Disease Consortium.

“To analyse the growing mountain of medical data now available to doctors requires a powerful computing infrastructure that needs to operate internationally to facilitate the close collaboration between clinicians and researchers,” said Niels Hersoug, Joint General Manager of DANTE, the organisation which on behalf of Europe’s NRENs has built and operates the GÉANT network. “What is vital about the DECIDE project is that while it uses complex technology, it is simple, secure and easy to use for doctors, and delivers major benefits to patients and their families, dramatically improving their quality of life. Together with the NRENs, the GEANT network provides the networking capability necessary for this important application.”

Looking forward, the researchers will also develop other diagnostic algorithms to search for new markers within the DECIDE infrastructure. In the longer term the infrastructure could also be extended to cover algorithms relating to other diseases of the brain and other organs, involving the whole life science research community.