by Kat Madrigal Cheng
The United States government is spending $200 billion this year on care and support for neurodegenerative diseases through Medicare and Medicaid, a sum projected to reach $1 trillion by 2050. CITRIS and the Banatao Institute, along with other UC Berkeley campus partners, presented the second annual Aging Research and Technology Summit earlier this month, to highlight research and technology solutions being developed to disrupt the development of neurodegenerative diseases.
“I want to electrocute your brain to make your memory better,” said Iain McIntyre, CEO and Co-Founder of Humm, as he demonstrated the Bioelectric Memory Patch, an innovative technology solution that the Department of Defense is now testing to improve brain and memory function.
Ngoc Mai Nguyen, CEO and Founder of OptoCeutics, discussed fighting Alzheimer’s with light. Nguyen, partnering with CITRIS and other UC Berkeley collaborators, has developed a light treatment that has been proven to reduce beta-amyloid, a sticky compound that accumulates in the brain and causes communication function to deteriorate.
These are just a few of the innovative technology solutions discussed at the summit that included UC Berkeley and global technologists. New technology solutions were also presented by Coleman Fung, Founder of Blue Gogi; George Netscher, Founder of SafelyYou; and Carrie Shaw, Founder of Embodied Labs.
Internationally recognized researchers addressed the challenges of neurodegenerative diseases, including the opening keynote by Thomas Insel, Former Director of the National Institute of Mental Health, who provided insights into the future of Digital Phenotyping. Emerging research findings were presented by UC Berkeley researchers including William Jagust, Daniela Kaufer, Gretchen Donehower, Ming Hsu, Ed Blonz, Susan Landau, and Joseph Winer, among others.
John Swartzberg, editorial board chair of Berkeley Wellness, an online resource for evidence-based wellness information, presented on vetted research on popular health trends regarding memory. Among them is whether dietary supplements can help improve memory — research suggests that they do not.
Attendees heard from keynote speakers who addressed the growing global problem of neurodegenerative diseases. Keynote speaker Randy Schekman, 2013 Nobel Laureate, shared how Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative conditions are growing around the world. “By 2030, over half the incidents of Parkinson’s disease will be in China,” said Schekman, presenting data showing the total cases of Parkinson’s growing from 4.1 million cases in 2005 to 8.7 million cases in 2030.
The financial burden on patients, families, and societies caused by Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases was a key point of discussion: “By 2050, Alzheimer’s could cost $1.1 trillion dollars a year. This would bankrupt our healthcare system,” says Miyoung Chun, Co-Founder & CEO at Alzheimer’s X, who presented a Challenge Address at the Summit.
UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ joined the Aging Research and Technology Summit to discuss work underway at the university to improve the prospects for patients, families and caregivers affected by neurodegenerative diseases. She highlighted the alignment with the event’s topic and goals with the university’s Signature Initiative in health and wellness. Closing the meeting, Ehud Isacoff, Director of Berkeley’s Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, provided a transformative vision for the future of neurodegenerative disease through transdisciplinary solutions, led by research teams from UC Berkeley and other institutions.
The Summit was hosted by the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society and the Banatao Institute (CITRIS), Center for Research and Education in Aging (CREA), Center for Technology and Aging (CTA), OSHER Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), Fung Fellowship for Wellness and Technology Innovations, the Berkeley Brain Initiative, and the Center on the Economics and Demography of Aging (CEDA).
Photos: Adriel Olmos
The Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) and the Banatao Institute drive interdisciplinary innovation for social good with faculty researchers and students from four University of California campuses – Berkeley, Davis, Merced, and Santa Cruz – along with public and private partners.
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