Digital Biomarkers, Blood Biomarkers, and AI for Enhanced Brain Imaging: Michael Schöll Part of Initiatives in South Korea, EU and the U.S.
After receiving his professorship in molecular medicine earlier this spring, Michael Schöll continues his research on the human brain. Based on his expertise, Michael was recently recruited to the South Korean Brain Pool program, where advanced imaging techniques will play a crucial role in enhancing our understanding of synaptic integrity in neurodegenerative diseases.
Part of the Brain Pool Expert Program in South Korea
The Brain Pool program allows Korean researchers to invite selected experts from other countries to become part of the Korean program. The National Research Foundation of Korea funds this initiative.
Together with his host, Professor Justin Lee, who heads the Center for Cognition and Sociality at the Institute of Basic Science (IBS), Michael will focus on validating new imaging tools to visualize, measure, and evaluate synaptic health in the human brain.
“Lee and his team are among the world's leading researchers in this field, and it will be very valuable to collaborate with them. Changes in synapses lead to impaired communication between neurons in the brain, resulting in memory problems and other cognitive issues characteristic of the various neurodegenerative diseases. While we have been able to measure and visualize neurodegeneration for a long time, we have only recently gained access to biomarkers for synaptic density in the brain. It is essential to further research how these biomarkers perform and learn more about what they reflect precisely,” Michael Schöll said.
Digital Biomarkers - A collaboration with the Washington University
During spring, Michael also received funding from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) and became part of a global study led by The Cognitive Technology Research Lab at the Washington University in St. Louis. The study involves multiple sites worldwide, with the University of Gothenburg receiving a grant of $820,000. The study aims to develop and test digital biomarkers for Alzheimer's disease in individuals with Down syndrome.
“A digital biomarker is for example information from a sensor such as a smartwatch, or results from a mobile app that tests certain abilities. In our case, it involves an app that assesses individuals' cognitive function. In collaboration with our memory clinic and psychiatric care, we will be able to follow up on these digital markers and evaluate their significance for individuals' cognitive function, as well as their association with other biomarkers that reflect the disease’s pathophysiology,” Michael said.
EU Funding for Regional Project - Implementing Digital Biomarkers in Healthcare
Digital biomarkers and novel blood-based biomarkers for Alzheimer's disease also play a significant role in a large regional project that Michael is currently preparing in collaboration with the Västra Götaland Region and colleagues and professors Kaj Blennow, Henrik Zetterberg and Silke Kern. The study, called REAL AD, will invite all individuals aged 50-80 in the Västra Götaland Region, who do not have a dementia diagnosis, to test their cognition at home and then provide a blood sample at one of Närhälsan's primary healthcare units for blood biomarker analysis. During spring, Michael and Henrik received €1.1 million from the European Innovative Health Initiative (IHI), and the study group signed collaboration agreements with, amongst others, Roche Diagnostics for the project.
Continued Involvement in the Wallenberg Centre
Michael was one of the first young researchers recruited to the Wallenberg Centre for Molecular and Translational Medicine (WCMTM) and is now affiliated with the center as alumni, where he continues to engage in the network.
As a WCMTM Fellow, Michael was recently also awarded a Wallenberg LaunchPad (WALP) grant of SEK 4.5 million. The grant will support the development of AI tools to enhance clinical image diagnostics.
“I am passionate about translating research results into clinical use. My hope is that our studies contribute the right data to validate and implement biomarkers and other modalities, that have shown promise in research, in clinical practice," Michael concluded.