Researchers May have Found an Alzheimer's Vaccine

This experimental vaccine could stop the disease from progressing.



People are living longer today than at any other time in human history. Average lifespans in developed countries have more than doubled in the last 50 years due to significant improvements in nutrition, hygiene, and medical advances. 

Since Alzheimer's disease appears exclusively in older people, as the number of people living longer grows, the number of cases will also increase. That is why so many scientists have been looking for a way to cure or prevent Alzheimer's for decades.

This degenerative neurological disease manifests itself with memory issues and then steadily progresses. Now, a research team at the University of Texas believes it may have found a vaccine that can stop the progression of the disease in its tracks.

The exact causes of Alzheimer's, the most common form of dementia, is not known but scientists believe that the disease involves a build-up of specific proteins in the brain (called beta-amyloid and tau) that are commonly referred to by doctors as plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. Targeting these build-ups is the way researchers have hoped to stop the disease progression according to Medical News Today.

Dr. Roger Rosenberg, founding director of the Alzheimer's Disease Center at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, was the head of the research team that looked for a new approach to prevent the protein buildup. 

The team decided to focus on finding a way to prompt the body to produce antibodies that inhibit the protein buildup. They ran trials injecting DNA coding for amyloid into the test subjects, and it worked.

In his latest paper on the research that was published in Alzheimer's Research & Therapy, Rosenberg wrote, "This study is the culmination of a decade of research that has repeatedly demonstrated that this vaccine can effectively and safely target in animal models what we think may cause Alzheimer's disease." He added, "I believe we're getting close to testing this therapy in people."

The current study, according to Medical News Today, found that the vaccine sparked an immune response that reduced the brain protein buildups and could halt the disease progression.

The researchers hope that in the future, tests will be able to detect the brain protein build-up before symptoms occur and then the vaccine would prevent further build-up, but the first step in this process is the human trials on the new vaccine.

If the vaccine works for people, it could cut the number of new cases by half according to Rosenberg, and that would save countless lives. There are more than 400 clinical trials currently looking at new treatments for Alzheimer's. Most of them target the same brain proteins. Some seek to stop the production of beta-amyloid, and others want to suppress the immune response, and still others like the Texas study, want to ramp it up. One school of researchers is focusing on the Tau protein. Other researchers are looking at taming inflammation and dietary supplements. 

With the current level of research from some of the leading universities and medical research centers worldwide, there's reason to believe that a cure for Alzheimer's will be found soon.

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