Alzheimer’s Vaccine shows promise as a treatment for the disease
Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center indicate that an Alzheimer’s vaccine they are testing could cut the incidence of the disease in half.
A paper published 20 November 2018 in the journal Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy offers hope for an alternative to drugs in our search to find a cure for this cruelest of diseases. Scientists have for some time been investigating the possibility of an Alzheimer’s vaccine, but until now, tests have resulted in an autoimmune response and encephalitis in many subjects. One really exciting thing about the present study is the immunotherapy successfully targeted Alzheimer’s pathologies without the autoimmune response.
Doris Lambracht-Washington¹ and her team at the University of Texas are exploring immunization as an alternative to drugs to treat Alzheimer’s disease. This group of researchers is using a vaccine to generate anti-Aβ (amyloid beta) antibodies that clean away the protein deposits that cause Alzheimer’s. Their process seems to be at least as effective as the drugs currently in use an in trials, and without the side effects always present with drug use.
So far trials of the DNA Aβ42 trimer immunotherapy involved transgenic mice. And yet results revealed a 40% reduction in amyloid plaques and a 25–50% reduction of the tau protein that causes tangles.
Over one hundred years ago Alois Alzheimer first described plaques and tangles in the brain of his patient, Auguste Deter. These plaques and tangles are abnormal aggregates of proteins in the brain. Dr. Alzheimer assumed that these sticky proteins were the likely cause of the aberrant behavior she exhibited on her admission to the Frankfurt hospital in which he worked.
Plaques and tangles are the hallmark of the disease named for the man who first described them. They are always present in abnormal amounts in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease.
In spite of the medical advances we have seen over the last century, we seem to be no closer to understanding or curing the disease than was Dr Alzheimer.
We know that mice studies often do not translate well to human subjects, but sometimes they do. The team at UT predict that, based on the results of their early animal tests, human trials will result in a significant reduction of both amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles and significantly reduce associated cognitive decline.
The current study is similar to many of the drug trials we have reported on in the past in that it assumes that ridding the brain of the protein buildups will at least lessen the effects of the disease. The approach differs in that it hopes, through immunization rather than drug therapy, to stimulate the body’s natural systems to clear the brain of the offending accumulations.
This is not the first time that potential Alzheimer’s vaccines have been tested. Unfortunately, many previous tests using an active immunization therapy caused autoimmune inflammation, resulting in encephalitis in as many as 6% of the subjects.
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Is an Alzheimer’ vaccine on the horizon?
- Roger N. Rosenberg, Min Fu and Doris Lambracht-Washington(20 November 2018). Active full-length DNA Aβ42 immunization in 3xTg-AD mice reduces not only amyloid deposition but also tau pathology. Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy201810:115. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13195-018-0441-4
- Eric R. Siemers, et. al. (2012). Safety and biomarker effects of solanezumab in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s and Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association;July 2012, Volume 8, Issue 4, Pages 261–271.
- Study showing for the first time that an active DNA Aβ42immunization reduced both beta amyloid and tau protein in the brains of transgenic mice without the autoimmune inflammation response present in earlier vaccine trials.
- Showed no inflamation response to an anti-β-amyloid (Aβ) antibody, in human subjects with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease.
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