This small bit of Alzheimer’s news out of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center slipped under the radar late last year. The researchers there revealed that an experimental vaccine that could hold off Alzheimer’s disease showed promising results in animal testing trials.  

Testing Process 

In the journal Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy, their research revealed that testing in mice showed that the vaccine safely prevented the buildup of substances in brains associated with the fatal disease. The mice were given an active full-length DNA amyloid-β peptide immunization. Amyloid-β is present in the plaques and tangles that are the hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. 

The mice that were given the immunization showed a 40% reduction of active full-length DNA amyloid-β peptide and a 25–50% reduction of total tau and different phosphorylated tau molecules. According to the research, the results definitively showed the reduction of both amyloid and tau aggregation and accumulation. 

The study noted that there has been research in monkeys and rabbits, and the researchers hope the vaccine will progress to human trials. If proven safe and effective in humans, the study’s senior author, Dori Lambracht-Washington, a professor of neurology and neurotherapeutics at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, shared with USA Today that it could slice the number of dementia diagnoses in half. 

Goal of Disease Prevention 

As we’ve discussed here, dementia is a term used to broadly describe symptoms of cognitive decline, with Alzheimer’s disease among the most common cause of dementia.  

The researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical center believe the vaccine could extend lives by preventing the disease from developing. 

“If the onset of the disease could be delayed by even five years, that would be enormous for patients and their families,” Lambracht-Washington said in a statement. “The number of dementia cases would drop by half.” 

Progress in the Right Direction 

This study punctuates major progress toward a safe and effective vaccine. Previous attempts to find an Alzheimer’s vaccine either caused harmful side effects, such as dangerous brain inflammation, or the approaches were ineffective, Lambracht-Washington reported. 

This new vaccine works by promoting the body to produce antibodies inhibiting the buildup of amyloid and tau, two proteins that are hallmarks of the degenerative brain disease. It is one of several potential treatments targeted at reducing the buildup of these proteins before they become deadly plaques and tangles in the brain. 

According to the University of Texas, about 5.7 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease. That number is expected to double by 2050. 

If you would like to read more, check out our blog post “Possible New Alzheimer’s Treatment Discovered,” about ongoing research at Yale University.

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