Nearly 46 millions of Americans are at risk of Alzheimer’s disease. For many of them, the diagnosis will come when little can be done to ameliorate the condition of life. But a new application created by a group of Canadian doctors and mathematicians intends to provide a better way to detect the signs of Alzheimer’s in a patient early on.
If everything goes as designed, it will soon be possible to detect in a patient the first signs of Alzheimer’s disease through a mobile application developed by a team combining medicine and mathematics in Quebec.
Dr. Patrick Bernier says he had the idea six years ago to apply geriatrics to the concept of growth charts that have been used for a long time in pediatrics. To his surprise, no really suitable solution was available.
“When we get older, we all lose some memory and cognition, it’s normal, but what is the difference between the normal and the pathological? It’s the tool we ended up making,” said the general practitioner who spent six years, without any form of subsidy, to develop QuoCo with his colleagues.
The application, available for phones and tablets, is intended for medical personnel who can assess their patients risk level in relation to average values and follow their evolution.
The app consists of an algorithm, which establishes at a glance the profile of the patient based on his or her age, his or her level of education and his or her results to a memory test used by clinicians for years. It is then possible to compare it to “cognitive curves” made up of Canadian and American databases.
During initial trials, the trajectory that emerges can predict whether an individual is at risk of developing a cognitive illness long before a simple questionnaire reveals it, argues Dr. Bernier.
The program successfully detects the symptoms associated with dementia 80% of the time, says the physicist Christian Gourdeau, the brain of the software and its modeling. The result thus obtained is not in itself a diagnosis, but it “raises a flag”, he explained.
The designers admit to being amazed that no one had thought of their idea before. “It took the interaction between a gang of doctors who wanted to innovate, who think outside the box, and pure mathematics,” says Dr. Bernier, who patented everything.
Even if there is still no therapeutic treatment against Alzheimer’s, its early detection still makes a difference, says the general practitioner. “I often tell my patients that this is bad news, but now what you have to do is enjoy life.”
The researchers’ efforts were rewarded by the publication this week of an article in the prestigious Canadian Medical Association Journal, which could make the application travel beyond the borders of Quebec.