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Esther Heerema, MSW

Research Points to Possibility of an Alzheimer's Vaccine

By January 20, 2013

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Researchers at the Université Laval, CHU de Québec recently demonstrated some promising results in the fight against Alzheimer's disease. Their work targets the amyloid beta protein that builds up in the brains of those with Alzheimer's. In Alzheimer's disease, it appears that the brain loses its normal ability to clear the amyloid beta, resulting in the formation of plaques which then interfere with brain functioning.

Based on that thought, researchers administered weekly injections of monophosphoryl lipid A (MPL)  to mice with Alzheimer's disease for 12 weeks, with the goal of boosting the immune activity of the microglial cells in the brain. Microglial cells work to clear excess amyloid beta. MPL has been used for some time as an additive to some vaccinations to stimulate the body's immune response to those vaccinations.

The results of this study are impressive. During the treatment, up to 80 percent of amyloid beta plaques in the mice's brains were eliminated. Additionally, the mice's cognitive ability significantly improved; this was measured by watching how long the mice took to navigate a water maze, a well-established test of cognition and memory in mice.

The researchers concluded that MPL could potentially be used both as a treatment for Alzheimer's disease (since the mice who already had Alzheimer's improved significantly) and as a preventative vaccine for Alzheimer's. The thought is that the presence of MPL could proactively prevent the amyloid beta from accumulating and therefore prevent the deterioration of cognitive functioning.

Interestingly, other research has also pointed to the importance of boosting the immune response in treating Alzheimer's disease. Obviously, this current study needs replication, and (if such positive results continue) eventual testing in humans. The safety of MPL for humans has already been established, which should significantly speed up the research process.

This study was partly funded by GlaxoSmithKline, a pharmaceutical company, and was published in an early online edition of the journal Proceedings for the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

January 21, 2013 at 3:49 pm
(1) Chris Mufford says:

This is amazing and also interesting research as I have worked previously and know and socialize with many people who have Alzheimer’s here in Australia. If this research is successful in human trials and the safety of this vaccine is ensured, it will be a welcomed breakthrough in prevention/treatment of Alzheimer’s and enhancement of quality of life for the persons effected by this disease.

January 28, 2013 at 8:42 pm
(2) Ron says:

Quick thought about Alzheimer and low immune systems. Could there be a tie in to patients, either diagnosed or not, with Lupus. My wife has been diagnosed with Lupus, and now Alzheimer. Both her mother, who passed from Alzheimer, and her younger sister also had Lupus and is afraid of the possibility of Alzheimer but shows no signs as of yet. That suggests the hereditary factor as well. The very youngest sister, by another father, shows signs of either one. Appreciate anybody’s insight.

January 30, 2013 at 10:56 am
(3) Barbara says:

It is my greatest hope that this will be used on humans very soon. My family has had at least four generations of early onset Alzheimer’s disease and many have participated in clinical trials on the east coast of the US. Because family members, both a couple of years older and about six years younger than I are currently diagnosed, there is an urgency that something like this new product be available ASAP.

February 3, 2013 at 3:40 pm
(4) Chris says:

Hope this comes out very soon!

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