All in all, we are very fortuitous to have been chosen for the program and look forward to making the most out of it.

What do you do and what is your research focus?

I am a PhD student, and I study Parkinson’s disease (PD), which is a debilitating age-associated neurodegenerative disease. The aim of my research is to elucidate why dopamine neurons degenerate in the disease and find potential new ways to treat it. Particularly, I am taking a closer look into the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) of these neurons with advanced imaging techniques and trying to find drug targets or compounds targeting the dopamine neuron ER. The ultimate goal of the research is to find disease-modifying (either halting or reversing) treatments for PD as the current ones only alleviate symptoms.

Why did you apply to the aiForward program?

With regards to preclinical PD studies, which our lab does, there is a lot of various morphometric analyses involved, especially cell counting. Cell counting is mostly done manually with laborious methods such as stereology, but AI can automate it and make it much easier and more reproducible. We wanted to create a faster and easier way to count cells and proteinaceous inclusions from cells, like Lewy Bodies which are found in PD patient’s brains. 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.

Had you thought much about using AI in your research before applying to aiForward?

Yes, we had a few ideas, but it always came down to execution as using AI for your research requires a good amount of expertise and/or a good platform to get started. Since we had neither readily available, a collaboration was the way to go. We eventually found Aiforia, which has both, the expertise and the platform, and offers a hands down and convenient way to apply AI to imaging-related research needs.

Tell us a little bit about your aiForward project.

We are developing a CNN-based algorithm to count Lewy Bodies (LB) and Lewy Neurites (LN) from histological samples, in our case mainly brain sections. Ideally it would identify and locate different neurons (like the dopamine neurons which degenerate in PD) and the LBs and LNs, count how many there are, in which cells they are and also give different parametrics, such as size and distribution, for them.  

What are your expectations for the program?

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. However, it is still in its early phases to say how it compares to other counting methods or identification done by professional neuropathologists. All in all, we are very fortuitous to have been chosen for the program and look forward to making the most out of it.

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

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