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IBM, UC San Diego Partner on Healthy Aging

Hands of older person

(Steve Buissinne, Pixabay)

28 September 2017. IBM and University of California at San Diego are launching a joint research project to gain new insights with artificial intelligence on cognitive and gut microbe health in older people. Financial and intellectual property aspects of the collaboration between IBM Research and UC San Diego were not disclosed.

The agreement calls for establishing an Artificial Intelligence for Healthy Living Center on the UC San Diego campus in La Jolla. At the center, research teams are expected to investigate cognitive decline among older individuals, but also the role of the human microbiome in the aging process.

The goal of the project is to better understand the key factors that contribute to healthy aging and independent living with a higher quality of life. Over the 5-year lifetime of the project, researchers plan to study the interaction of genetics, environmental factors, daily habits, and the human microbiome on the cognition of older adults.

The microbiome — the complex aggregate community of diverse microbes in humans associated with a wide range of health conditions — is an emerging research field, where disruptions in gut, skin, or mouth microbial communities are increasingly associated with many chronic and degenerative diseases. Among the disorders associated with microbial disruptions is Parkinson’s disease, but because of the complex relationships among these factors, the connections are not well understood.

IBM’s role in the partnership will provide expertise in artificial intelligence, resulting in analytical machine-learning algorithms to find underlying patterns in large-scale databases that identify ways to prevent cognitive decline, not just treat the condition after it occurs. “We want caring for the older population to be not just palliative, but preventive,” says UC San Diego chancellor Pradeep Khosla in a blog post on the IBM web site. “Rather than treating serious cognitive decline, we seek ways to stop it.”

In addition to IBM Research, the initiative is expected to involve UC San Diego’s medical and engineering schools, supercomputer center, and Center for Microbiome Innovation, where IBM will become a corporate sponsor. While funding levels were not disclosed, the project is expected to support 15 UC San Diego faculty members, as well as 46 postdoctoral researchers, students, and research staff.

The partnership with UC San Diego is part of IBM’s Cognitive Horizons Network, where IBM scientists collaborate with colleagues in academic labs to apply artificial intelligence, machine learning, natural language processing and related technologies to advanced research. Earlier in September, Science & Enterprise reported on the opening of a new research lab at MIT, where IBM and university scientists are investigating algorithms to expand machine learning and reasoning, the physics behind artificial intelligence, as well as industrial applications and economic implications of artificial intelligence.

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Disclosure: The author owns shares in IBM.

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