A vaccine against Alzheimer's disease is reported to be safe and effective… (Illustration by Barbara…)
A vaccine for Alzheimer's disease has been a long-held goal of researchers studying the devastating disease. Research presented Tuesday at the Society for Neuroscience meeting showed one potential vaccine under study appears both safe and effective in an animal model.
Most Alzheimer's vaccine research aims to prevent the accumulation of amyloid-beta plaque in the brain that can interfere with memory and cognition. However, work on a vaccine was derailed when a study in 2002 showed that an investigational vaccine targeting amyloid-beta also caused an autoimmune response that led to dangerous inflammation in the brain.
In the new study, a team at UC Irvine tested a vaccine developed against a non-human protein that is similar to amyloid-beta but has a different sequence of amino acids. Because the protein in the vaccine is non-human, it's hoped that the vaccine would not cause inflammation.
"The idea is if we can overcome this auto-inflammatory reaction, we might be able to develop a safe vaccine," said the senior author of the study, neuroscientist Charles Glabe of UC Irvine, at a news conference Tuesday in San Diego. "It's not a good idea to vaccinate humans with a human protein because of autoimune complications. In contrast, random or non-human peptide antigens are very safe."
Indeed, the mice with Alzheimer's disease who received the vaccine had improved performance on memory and cognition tests without suffering side effects. They were found to have reductions in amyloid-beta and tau protein clumps.
"This finding is important because it shows that you don't need a human protein to get an immune response that will neutralize the toxic amyloid oligomers associated with Alzheimer's disease," Glabe said.
More than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease, and disease rates surpass 40% of the population of people ages 85 and older.
The model for the vaccine has broader implications, Glabe said. Researchers are also exploring a similar strategy for Parkinson's disease.
Related: Omega-3 supplements fail to reduce Alzheimer's symptoms
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