EyesOnALZ is a citizen science project from the Human Computation Institute. This project enables everyone to contribute to Alzheimer’s disease research and speed up drug discovery by playing online games.
Our first game is ready! Click on Stall Catchers to look at microscope movies of live mouse brain & search for stalled vessels!
It has long been known that reduced blood flow in the brain is associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. However, new imaging techniques have only recently enabled our collaborators at the Schaffer-Nishimura Lab (Cornell University) to make important discoveries about the mechanisms that underlie this reduced blood flow.
For instance, one such cause seems to be capillaries becoming clogged by white blood cells. By sticking to the inside walls of blood vessels, white blood cells cause “stalls” – instances where blood is no longer flowing. It seems that around 2% of the tiniest blood vessels in the brain can become stalled in Alzheimer’s, causing up to 30% reduction in overall blood flow. This is likely to contribute to further disease progression and typical Alzheimer’s symptoms.
In fact, the researchers at the Schaffer-Nishimura Lab have recently demonstrated that reversing stalls in mice also reduces Alzheimer’s symptoms, such as cognitive decline and mood changes. But to get to the bottom of this process & discover functional treatment target for humans there is a lot more work to be done.
To learn more about the science behind EyesOnALZ have a look at this article.
The Citizen Science
While the research at the Schaffer-Nishimura Lab is promising, it is also incredibly time-consuming. In fact, the data that takes about one hour to collect, takes about a week for a trained scientist to analyze. At this rate, it could take decades to find functional Alzheimer’s treatment candidates.
Fortunately, the data curation step, though still too complicated for machines, involves perceptual tasks that are very easy for humans. We aim to crowdsource the data analysis to the general public through a game-like activity, which would drastically speed up the research.
The curation tasks in this research map closely to the tasks used in two existing citizen science platforms: stardust@home and EyeWire, both of which have enabled discoveries reported in the journals Nature and Science. Thus, in direct collaboration with the progenitors of these highly successful citizen science platforms, we are developing a new platform for public participation.
If you are interested in doing an online activity that will directly contribute to Alzheimer’s research, you can start by playing our first game – Stall Catchers!
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By participating in EyesOnALZ, you will not only help speed up the research, but also understand more about the disease and exactly how your efforts make a difference.