HOBI faculty member receives FDOH funding to study Alzheimer’s disease progression

AI in Medicine CurriculumHOBI assistant professor Jie Xu, Ph.D., received a $350,000 funding award from the Florida Department of Health’s Ed and Ethel Moore Alzheimer’s Disease Research Program for her research project, “Utilizing Data from the Electronic Health Record to Understand the Progression Pathway of Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementia.”

Xu’s project will use artificial intelligence tools developed by HOBI’s BMI faculty to leverage electronic health records for more than 16.8 million Floridians in the OneFlorida+ Data Trust with the goal of improving our understanding of how Alzheimer’s disease progresses in patients over time.

“There is growing evidence that the process of Alzheimer’s disease begins in the brain during middle age, and that intervention during the incubation period of the disease may improve cognitive performance, delay symptoms, or prevent Alzheimer’s disease,” Xu said.

Photo of Dr. Jie Xu
Dr. Jie Xu

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 6.5 million Americans aged 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. This devastating neurodegenerative disease leads to progressive memory loss and declining cognitive function. Over time, the disease robs older adults of the thinking, behavioral and social skills they need to live independently.

By 2060, the number of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease is expected to grow to 13.8 million, fueled by the aging baby boomers. For the next several decades, Florida is predicted to have the highest per-capita rate of patients with Alzheimer’s disease of all 50 states.

“Currently, there are no effective treatments for Alzheimer’s disease due to its complex pathogenesis mechanisms and possibly our poor understanding of the disease,” Xu said. But strong evidence suggests there are distinct differences in the way the disease progresses through its intermediate stages.

“Identifying and characterizing these pathways of disease progression and their contributing factors is a crucial step for Alzheimer’s disease risk stratification and prevention,” Xu said.

The Ed and Ethel Moore Alzheimer’s Disease Research Program, sponsored by the Florida Department of Health, aims to stimulate research relating to the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, care management, and cure of Alzheimer’s disease that is of the highest priority and potential benefit to the people of Florida.