An estimated 6.2 million Americans ages 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s disease. The national Alzheimer’s Association predicts that number to grow to 13.8 million by 2060, barring the development of medical breakthroughs that would prevent, slow or cure the debilitating disease.
Scientists may be one step closer to such a breakthrough thanks to a first-of-its-kind computer model that successfully simulated a clinical trial evaluating the efficacy of multiple treatments for Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
“We’re calling this a virtual clinical trial, because we used real, de-identified patient data to simulate health outcomes,” said Wenrui Hao, associate professor of mathematics at Penn State, who is lead author and principal investigator on the study published in the September issue of the journal PLoS Computational Biology. “What we found aligns almost exactly with findings in prior clinical trials, but because we were using a virtual simulation, we had the added benefit of directly comparing the efficacy of different drugs over longer trial periods.”
Using clinical and biomarker data, the researchers built a computational causal model to run virtual trials on the FDA-approved treatment aducanumab, as well as another promising therapy under evaluation, donanemab. The two drugs are some of the first treatments designed to work directly on what may cause the disease, instead of just treating the symptoms.