There is no known cure for people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Available medicines help decrease symptoms but do not halt the progression of the disease. It is thus very encouraging to read the results of this new study suggesting that developing a vaccine against Alzheimer’s is possible.
One of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease is the accumulation in the brain of a protein called beta-amyloid, that forms plaques and kills brain cells. The plaques form when the amyloid precursor protein (APP), which resides in the outer membrane of nerve cells, doesn’t get broken down.
The idea of developing a vaccine against Alzheimer’s is not new. A study, conducted almost 10 years ago, tried and failed. The vaccine developed at the time activated some type of white blood cells that ended up attacking brain tissue.
The new CAD106 vaccine was modified to affect only the harmful beta-amyloid. It is designed to trigger the body’s immune system against beta-amyloid. The recent 3-years human trial conducted with the new vaccine involved 58 participants, aged 50–80 years, with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease. Half received the vaccine and half received a placebo.
It was found that 80% of the patients who received the vaccine developed their own protective antibodies against beta-amyloid. No serious side-effects were observed.
These are quite promising results, although long-term and larger trials need to be conducted to confirm the efficacy of the vaccine. Future studies will show whether the vaccine can help people’s memory and thinking skills, on top of reducing the amount of amyloid in the brain.