The “Omics” of Alzheimer’s & the Emergence of “Scientific Wellness”

Nov 5, 2017

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Dr. Nathan Price Ph.D. is the associate director of the highly esteemed Institute for Systems Biology (ISB), and co-founder of its spin-off company Arivale – a leading company in the Scientific Wellness space. ISB and Providence St. Joseph Health, a 50 hospital system to which ISB is affiliated, have particularly focused on solving Alzheimer’s and have invested millions of dollars into research in finding both cures and prevention programs.

In this Episode You Will Learn:

Dr. Price gives us an intro to the concept of “Scientific Wellness,” and it’s role in creating health and predicting and preventing disease. Scientific Wellness – refers to technologies that quantify and assist to enhance health in the human body. Using methods of measurement called “Computational Biology,” this approach builds models to make sense of disease and resilience states and gain insights from vast amounts of information generated using computer technology. This information can be from a person’s genes or gene expression products or even the bugs in their stool and saliva. In some cases, these methods may even try to make sense of data streams collected by a variety of sensor-based information (for example, from a FITBIT).

All of this information can be overwhelming to handle and requires “supercomputing” capacity which companies like Arivale and ISB possess. Dr. Price and I discuss how all of this information comes together in the case of Alzheimer’s disease in the form of “dense dynamic personal data clouds” and how this will likely be important in solving the Alzheimer’s puzzle. Dense dynamic personal data clouds – refer to huge data sets that are followed on individuals over time to help predict and prevent disease. The first such project was called the “Pioneer 100.” While some of these data collections are investigational at this time, the near-term goal is to leverage this data to practical help people get better or possibly prevent Alzheimer’s.

In order to make sense of an individual’s information, his/her genome need to be compared against what is know about Alzheimer’s in the highly touted Genome Wide Association Studies (GWAS). GWAS data are important because they tell you about gene variations that are associated with a variety of aspects of Alzheimer’s disease. Fortunately, there is good GWAS data for Alzheimer’s and based on this, Dr. Price and his team at Arivale believe that this will help track the manifestation of Alzheimer’s disease based on tracking way the way genes express in a variety of other measurable data from a human being. This information is collected from multiple levels of a person including stool, saliva, urine, blood and potentially more. The variety of levels of “Omic” information is aggregated then with the assistance of computer technology is made sense of in the form of a “dense dynamic personalized data cloud.”

Other Interesting Topics discussed in this episode:

  • Connections between diabetes type 2 and Alzheimer’s a.
  • Where stem cells might have a role in treatment.
  • CRISPR technology – the benefits and ethical questions of gene-editing technology.

I want to highlight CRISPR in this summary because of how significant it appears it will be in the future of achieving real health on multiple levels. CRISPR is a gene-editing tool – that Dr. Price calls one of the most exciting development in biology in his generation. CRISPR is a simple technique for gene editing that allows someone to effectively “pull out” risky genes at the stem cell level, fix them, and put them back. But, Dr. Price also considers the ethics and potential unintended consequences.

Changing the paradigm of how clinical research is done in the Information Age. In the age of Personalized Medicine, the paradigm of the single pill for a single ill is being challenged, and a new approach for clinical trials is emerging with ISB amongst the leaders of this emerging paradigm.

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