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Nasal Alzheimer's Vaccine To Start Human Trials for the First Time

The trial is the culmination of two decades of research at the Massachusetts hospital.

Nasal Alzheimer's Vaccine To Start Human Trials for the First Time
Brain MRI scan NIH Image Gallery/Flickr

Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston Massachusetts will soon begin Phase I trials of a nasal vaccine designed to prevent or slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease (AD), a press release said. This is the first occasion when a nasal vaccine is being attempted for the disease, which affects more than six million people in the U.S. alone. 

First seen in a patient way back in 1906 by Dr. Alois Alzheimer, the disease is a brain disorder characterized by the presence of clumps (amyloid plaques) and tangled fibers (tau tangles) between nerve cells (neurons) in the brain. Symptoms of the disease, which is usually seen in adults in their 60s, vary from memory issues to vision loss and even impaired reasoning.

The cause of the disease has long been questioned and researchers only recently believed to have come to the root of it. Research for a cure has been ongoing for decades, however, most interventions are aimed at reducing the severity of the symptoms. The vaccine to be trialed aims to change this. 

The nasal vaccine trial

Howard L. Weiner, co-director of a center that studies neurological disease at Brigham has been researching the development of AD for over 20 years. Previous studies have shown that the immune cells in the body play a role in the removal of the amyloid plaques from the brain. Therefore, the researchers are using an immune modulator called Protollin to stimulate the immune system and remove the plaques. 

Protollin is an intranasal agent derived by mixing specific cell components of different bacteria and is already used as an adjuvant, to generate greater immune response for other vaccines. The researchers are hopeful that by triggering the immune system, specifically the white blood cells from the lymph node located in the neck area, the vaccine will clear out plaques in AD patients too. 

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The trial will include 16 participants between the age of 60 and 85 years who have been diagnosed with symptomatic, early-stage AD, the press release said. Trial participants will receive two doses of the vaccine, one week apart. The main aim of the trial is to determine if the vaccine is safe and can be tolerated at the dosages planned. If successful, the same mode of treatment could be used for other neurodegenerative diseases, the press release said. 

Interestingly, another possible treatment and vaccine strategy for AD was published earlier this month and will move to human trials soon. 

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