CEO and founder of BrainKey, Owen Phillips, PhD, explains the meaning and future of brain longevity.
Nothing is more important to longevity than brain health. I’ve seen the importance of brain longevity firsthand. My mother has had a treatable version of dementia that should have been identified and treated years ago. But it was missed, and her outcome is worse for it.
Unfortunately, when it comes to the brain, many patients and even physicians often assume that there is no hope.
This is wrong. There is treatment for many brain health problems. But often, identifying what’s going on inside a patient’s brain and then getting to the right treatment based on what is happening in their brain is not easy.
The key is biology.
Biology drives brain longevity. But biology is complex and the brain’s biology is even more so.
Until now it has been too difficult to understand an individual patient’s underlying brain biology. This has forced the field to rely on external observable symptoms.
This approach is error prone. The problem is that even in patients with very similar external symptoms, the underlying biology driving their symptoms can be different.
We’re working hard to unlock the brain’s biology at a patient level. BrainKey is building AI tools that unlock each patient’s personal brain biology. We do this so that we can help patients get the right treatment to extend their brain longevity.
This is a personal issue for me and fortunately, we have been able to use our AI tools to help my mom and to get her the right care for her.
But, it’s important to highlight that this is a global problem as 1 in 3 will experience dementia in their lifetime. The risk grows as we get older and the global population is now older than it has ever been before.
For example, today, there are more people aged 65 than under the age of 5.
I founded BrainKey to create a powerful new tool that can fundamentally improve how we identify, treat, and manage brain longevity.
BrainKey can support a physician to understand more about their patient’s brain in a number of ways.
A simple example is that we can calculate the size of brain structures (i.e, the hippocampus) to see how it compares to a patient’s age and sex group.
The hippocampus plays a big role in memory. It is one of the first structures to have problems in dementia and often, patients with dementia will have a lower volume.
We can do this for many other structures, such as the frontal lobe or cerebellum. We can also calculate how much gray matter a person has at 1000s of points along their cortex. Further, we can calculate how old the patient’s biological brain age is compared to their chronological age.
When we look at genetic data we can identify genes that are associated with these things, for example, we can pull genes out that are associated with hippocampal volume and create a measure of many genes (polygenetic) related to hippocampal volume.
All this information adds to the physician’s picture of the patient’s underlying biology and can be useful in determining the health of their patient’s brain.
It’s not enough to identify that a patient has a problem early. This was reinforced to me when we identified that my mom was having issues. If you really want to help - you need to be able to tell the patient what they can do about it. The only way to do this without a painfully slow error prone process is if you can uncover the biology driving a patient’s problems.
We’ve made strides to do this. And we will work to get better and better.
Owen Phillips, PhD