With repeated drug failures to treat Alzheimer’s disease in recent years, scientists are racing to find a vaccine to prevent the disease from evolving. The latest study was tested on mice genetically programmed to get Alzheimer’s disease and was successful in removing beta-amyloid plaque and tau protein linked to Alzheimer’s disease in the animals.
This latest vaccine study was conducted by researchers at the University of California Irvine and used an adjuvant or an immunological agent that boosts the immune response of the vaccine, formulated by Flinders University in South Australia.
“Our approach is looking to cover all bases and get past previous roadblocks in finding a therapy to slow the accumulation of amyloid beta/tau molecules and delay Alzheimer’s disease progression in a the rising number of people around the world,” says Flinders University Professor Petrovsky, who will work in the US for the next three months.
Potential Vaccine Targets Both Plaques and Tangles in Brain
The dual vaccine strategy prevents the formation of amyloid plaques and tau neurofibrillary tangles, two hallmarks associated with the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Amyloid plaque are sticky clusters that form in spaces between nerve cells in the brain tissue.
Imaging research in recent years has proved that people can live with plaque in their brains decades before seeing a symptom of Alzheimer’s. Neurofibrillary tangles are knots of tau protein threads within the brain tissue. Both are believed to play a significant role in the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease. However, it remains unclear whether both of these structures cause Alzheimer’s or are a byproduct of the disease.
Researchers say the success of the animal study comes after two decades of working on the vaccine and could pave the way for human trials to start as early as 2021. Trial centers will be located in the United States but Professor Petrovsky told Australian media he hopes to make them available in Australia as well.
The Race to Find an Alzheimer’s Vaccine
This latest study is one of several recent ones attempting to develop a successful vaccine that works on humans. Earlier this year researchers from the University of New Mexico announced they successfully engineered a vaccine that prevents the formation of new tau tangles in the brain and eliminates existing ones in mice. And United Neurosciences, a Dublin-based biotech firm, announced it was seeing promising results in UB-311, in a clinical phase 2a human trial.
Earlier studies of anti-amyloid drugs have failed because they have caused brain swelling. It is hoped that a vaccine could trigger an immune response that doesn’t result in swelling. Past vaccine studies have targeted people over 60 years old who show signs of mild cognitive impairment.