Research Highlight

New database to advance global Alzheimer's research

doi:10.1038/nindia.2020.175 Published online 17 November 2020

Researchers from the National Brain Research Centre (NBRC) in Haryana have unveiled a brain neurochemical database for Alzheimer's Disease (AD) 1 expected to help identify the molecular process that causes the neurodegenerative disease.

Called ‘ANSH’ (meaning small in Hindi), the database will also help monitor the progression of the disease and find a possible treatment, says lead research Pravat Mandal from NBRC.

Database and associated data-processing platforms are powerful tools for supporting medical data mining and discovery from the wealth of routinely acquired clinical and imaging data. What causes AD is not known, and research involving brain imaging data – such as those obtained from Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Positron Emission Tomography (PET) – is used to identify the molecular process leading to AD.

Various databases based on MRI are currently accessible to AD researchers globally, but Mandal says they all lack the crucial neurochemical data that can be generated from Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (MRS). Mandal's laboratory earlier pioneered the use of MRS for detection of the antioxidant neurochemical glutathione (GSH) in AD patients and demonstrated that AD pathology is associated with reduced GSH levels in the frontal cortex of the brain. His team is now aiming to longitudinally track the precise course of GSH during AD progression and assess its value as a predictive biomarker of AD.  

Brain imaging, especially quantification of neurochemicals using MRS has real potential to assist in the identification of AD at its incipient stages, according to the researchers. The ANSH database brings on a single platform critical neurochemical data (antioxidant, neurotransmitter, and energy metabolites) and the MRI-based information from AD patients and those suffering from Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), for comparative analysis with Healthy Old (HO) subjects.

Besides glutathione, ANSH includes gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) and other neurochemicals, they report.

The platform will facilitate collaborative research and multi-site global data sharing, the researchers say. They also plan to add data on Parkinson disease and other mental disorders to the database later.


References

1. Mandal, P. K. et al. ANSH: Multimodal neuroimaging database including MR spectroscopic data from each continent to advance Alzheimer’s Disease research. Front. Neuroinform. (2020)  doi: 10.3389/fninf.2020.571039