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Government mulls setting up AI center to analyze genetic data of dementia patients

Kyodo

The health ministry may set up a data center to analyze the genomes of dementia patients as part of efforts to better treat the brain disorder, ministry sources said Wednesday.

Using artificial intelligence to interpret a vast amount of genome data, the full set of an person’s genetic information, the facility would be the nation’s first such hub, the sources said.

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare will request outlays to finance the project under the state budget for fiscal 2018.

Dementia is caused when nerve cells in the brain die or fail, leading to impaired memory and judgment. Although slowing the progress is possible in some cases, there is no established treatment to address the root cause of the symptoms.

Tackling dementia is an urgent task in Japan where the number of dementia patients ages 65 and over will soar to 7 million in 2025 from 4.62 million in 2012, according to ministry projections.

Costs shared in the society to provide medical and nursing care to dementia patients reached ¥14.5 trillion ($132 billion) in 2014, according to an estimate by the ministry.

The ministry plans to locate the data hub in the National Center for Geriatrics Gerontology in Obu, Aichi Prefecture. All data will be kept anonymous to protect patient privacy, the sources said.

Managing such data with AI is expected to help doctors assess the development of dementia and prescribe medicines, they said.

In addition to the genome data of patients examined at the NCGG, medical records kept at other research facilities are expected to be collected and managed together at the data center.

Blood samples of dementia patients stored at the NCGG will be also preserved and managed at the new facility.

The government decided in 2015 to prioritize cancer, diabetes and dementia in the field of genome treatment, which analyses genetic information for diagnosis, treatment and prevention.