A New Breakthrough Has Taken Us One Step Closer to an Alzheimer's Vaccine

And it's nearing human trials.
Chris Young

Scientists have made a potentially life-changing breakthrough in the fight against Alzheimer's disease. A team of scientists from the U.K. and Germany developed a new method that has the potential to help treat, and even vaccinate against, Alzheimer's disease, a press statement reveals.

To be precise, the team developed an antibody-based treatment and a protein-based vaccine that reduced Alzheimer's symptoms in mice. The next, crucial step will be to run human clinical trials.

'A different approach' to Alzheimer's treatment

The team, from the University of Leicester, the University Medical Center Göttingen, and the research charity LifeArc, published their findings in the journal Molecular Psychiatry. The new treatment and vaccine focus on a 'truncated' soluble form of the amyloid beta protein, which is found in plaques in the brain, and is associated with Alzheimer's disease. Scientists believe that the soluble form is key to the development and progression of the brain disease.

"In clinical trials, none of the potential treatments which dissolve amyloid plaques in the brain have shown much success in terms of reducing Alzheimer’s symptoms," Professor Thomas Bayer, from the University Medical Center Göttingen explained. "Some have even shown negative side effects.

"So, we decided on a different approach," he continued. "We identified an antibody in mice that would neutralize the truncated forms of soluble amyloid beta but would not bind either to normal forms of the protein or to the plaques."

A never-before-seen hairpin-shaped protein structure

In testing a new "humanized" version of this antibody, called TAP01_04, the researchers found that it would bind to the truncated form of amyloid beta and form a never-before-seen hairpin-shaped structure. This allowed the team to engineer a stable fragment of a specific region of the protein that could potentially be used to develop a vaccine that would trigger the immune system to produce TAP01_04 type antibodies.

The researchers tested the engineered protein in mice and they found that the mice that received the protein produced the required antibody. Further tests showed that the treatment and "vaccine" protein helped to restore nerve cell function, restore memory loss, and reduce amyloid beta plaque formation in mice.

The news comes only a week after a team of Japanese researchers revealed a newly-developed vaccine was able to kill HIV in monkeys, giving hope to the 37.7 million people living with the autoimmune disease. Though the science for the new Alzheimer's treatment is in its early stages, successful human trials would similarly change lives by improving our medical capability against Alzheimer's, which, according to the World Health Organization, is responsible for approximately 60-70 percent of all global dementia cases.

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