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AI can automate it and make it much easier and more reproducible.”

Ilmari Parkkinen is on a mission to decipher Parkinson’s disease (PD). The neurodegenerative disorder predominantly affects neurons that produce dopamine. Current treatments alleviate the symptoms caused by the loss of these neurons. Ilmari’s research is focused on elucidating why these particular neurons degenerate and ultimately to discover disease-modifying treatments to either halt or reverse the progression of the disease. 

Preclinical PD studies often involve numerous quantitative analyses, such as cell counting. This is mostly done manually with labor intensive methods like stereology. Hours and days are spent counting cells with this traditional method, often involving multiple scientists. This, like for many other neuroscientists, was a big hurdle for Ilmari and his lab. 

Neuron counting by AI

“AI can automate it and make it much easier and more reproducible,” explained Ilmari of why he decided to apply to the aiForward program. “Because Aiforia offered a chance to create a custom algorithm just for this purpose, we decided to go for it and use it in our models,” he added.”

Aiforia Create allows Ilmari to develop his own AI model not just to count a huge amount of cells but to also identify and quantify the specific cells he needs to analyze for his Parkinson’s disease study. A customized algorithm was needed and Aiforia Create enabled the development of this. “Using AI for your research requires a good amount of expertise and/or a good platform to get started,” he described.

Ilmari has finished developing his algorithm and is now excited to start running the analysis, he recently told us: “Mainly we are expecting to do exciting and robust work that could lay the basis for our future studies to study the mechanisms underlying neurodegeneration. Also, at the end of the day, hopefully we will find a way to make the lives of neuropathologists and researchers doing preclinical studies on PD easier. The great thing is that we already have some promising preliminary data.”

Applications to the aiForward program are accepted on a continuous basis.

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