Diabetes researchers are using Neo4j’s technology to find hidden connections in medical data.

Understanding more about diabetes is key to treating and preventing the disease. Germany’s DZD centre of diabetic research is using graph database technology from Neo4j to learn more about the illness. ZDNet spoke to DZD’s head of data and knowledge management, Dr Alexander Jarasch, to find out more.

In the UK diabetes is massively on the increase, is it a similar story in Germany?

It is similar, as it is in the US. Roughly 10 percent of the population are diabetics. In children, it is mostly Type 1 diabetes and it was always assumed that it was the older people who had Type 2 diabetes. But it turned out that two thirds of the population with diabetes is of a working age. Diabetes is a critical disease for people of working age. Those with diabetes have less productivity, they are getting sick much earlier, and they have lots of complications like strokes or heart attacks. Obviously, this is an area where we are doing a lot of research.

In biology or medicine, data is connected. You know that entities are connected — they are dependent on each other. The reason why we chose graph technology and Neo4j is because all the entities are connected.

We started with Neo4j about one year ago and we tried to connect these different disciplines — hospitals, basic research, animal models and so on. We tried to connect them on a very simple data model that is valid for all the different disciplines and different locations and we tried to learn from these different techniques together in a new way. Because nowadays one discipline is not sufficient anymore to answer a biomedical question.

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