Groundbreaking new clinical research indicates that an impressive vaccine to reverse the early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease may begin testing in the United States within the next two or three years, especially since the US government has bankrolled the project.
Obviously, Alzheimer’s “disease” is not an infection, so the term “vaccine” more relates to the way it helps to prevent the progress of the condition, reversing some of the earliest symptoms. Current research has shown that Alzheimer’s disease progression is a result of build up and break down of two proteins in the brain: amyloid-beta and tau.
Flinders University (Australia) medicine professor Nikolai Petrovsky comments, “Essentially what we have designed is a vaccine that makes the immune system produce antibodies and those antibodies act like tow trucks so they come to your driveway, they latch on to the breakdown protein or car and they pull it out of the driveway.”
He goes on to say, “So by developing a vaccine against a-beta it seems to work in the animals best if you give it before they get Alzheimer’s or dementia and it doesn’t work so well once they have developed the disease.”
He also adds that the research shows amyloid beta is the first to malfunction. Then, he says, “Interestingly the second protein, which has been found more recently, which we are targeting … it turns out if you target tau with the vaccine you can actually reverse the disease even once it has developed.”
More importantly, Professor Petrovsky notes that having a vaccine which can target both proteins is the key. And furthermore, he says that giving the vaccine to someone at a particular age—maybe at the age of 50—could stop the development of dementia. However, he also says that we could administer the vaccine to people in the earliest stages of development to reverse the process.
He also makes sure to note how committed the US government is to this vaccine. After all, it has provided as much as $1 billion to research and develop this very treatment. Petrovsky adds, “Given the demand for a vaccine, if we show it is successful in the early stages we expect this will be pulled through and turned into product very, very quickly.”
Of course, research continues to identify early signs of Alzheimer’s—even in teenagers and perhaps at younger ages—so the value of vaccine research could continue to provide yet more benefit.