But what does that mean?
We uploaded a new dataset to Stall Catchers for the competition, which deals with the location of stalled vessels in the brain. More specifically, our biomedical collaborators at Cornell are trying to figure out whether the stalled vessels occur closer to amyloid plaques than the flowing ones.
Once we analyze all the vessels, the researchers should be able to get an answer to this question!
Why do we care about the locations of stalls?
Researchers suspect that reduced blood flow might be driving the accumulation of amyloid plaques. These are a sticky substance that, research suggests, is the likely culprit behind the cognitive changes experienced in Alzheimer's disease.
Watch Chris Schaffer & Nozomi Nishimura, who lead this groundbreaking research, explain this on the recently premiered The Crowd & The Cloud documentary:
More importantly, the amyloid plaques may induce inflammation in the brain, which causes even more stalled vessels as white blood cells arrive to the tissue to deal with the source of inflammation and get stuck.
That way stalls & amyloid accumulation might be driving each other, which means Alzheimer's is progressing that much faster.
How does answering this question get us closer to curing Alzheimer's?
All research is uncertain, but the general (promising!) idea right now is that by preventing or reversing stalls we could reduce the accumulation of amyloid plaques in the brain thus stopping Alzheimer's in its tracks. But there's still plenty of questions to be answered, and that's what we - YOU - are doing at Stall Catchers.
How do we make that challenge bar fill quicker?!
Only the "real" vessels - the ones from the dataset - count towards the research goal. Inexperienced users tend to receive more "calibration" (already scored) vessels to annotate, which do not count towards the challenge bar, so not every vessel you get directly helps the research (but it certainly helps you train for real vessels, which is just as important!). However, as a group we are becoming more and more experienced, and currently 7 out of 10 vessels annotated on Stall Catchers are real!
That means that the challenge bar, which measures the progress towards the research goal, will be progressing faster as we go on!
Thank you everyone who help this important research go forward. Every day we get closer to beating Alzheimer's through research! 💜