Scientists developing a vaccine against Alzheimer’s disease say they are ‘hugely excited’ by findings suggesting it can reverse dementia in mice.
Researchers at the University of Leicester have come up with a ‘transformative’ treatment that could stop the progression of the disease – or even prevent it.
The pioneering therapy, costing only £15 a dose, works by preventing the formation of harmful deposits of protein in the brain linked to memory loss. Dementia affects about 850,000 people in the UK and is currently incurable, but experts said the new vaccine could enter clinical trials in humans within two years.
Scientists are ‘hugely excited’ about a vaccine that may reverse dementia. The disease affects about 850,000 people in the UK and is currently incurable
Alzheimer’s disease is thought to be caused when naturally occurring proteins called amyloid beta clump together to form plaques in the brain.
These plaques occur when separate amyloid beta protein molecules become shortened or ‘truncated’, then join together to form clusters that interfere with the functioning of brain cells.
But scientists have identified an antibody – called TAP01-04 – which binds to the shortened toxic form of amyloid beta, preventing the molecules clumping together to form plaques.
This antibody forms the basis of the promising new therapy. Trials on mice with Alzheimer’s disease found the antibody helped to restore the function of brain cells as fewer plaques were formed, improving memory.
The scientists are working on a vaccine which triggers the body to generate TAP01-04 antibodies, and could soon be offered to people at high risk of Alzheimer’s.
Co-author Professor Thomas Bayer, from the University Medical Centre Gottingen in Germany, said: ‘In clinical trials, none of the potential treatments which dissolve amyloid plaques in the brain have shown much success in terms of reducing Alzheimer’s symptoms
The team said its revolutionary approach shows Alzheimer’s could be prevented in the first place, rather than just treating plaques which have already formed.
Professor Mark Carr, from the University of Leicester, said: ‘While the science is currently still at an early stage, if these results were to be replicated in human clinical trials, then it could be transformative.
‘It opens up the possibility to not only treat Alzheimer’s once symptoms are detected, but also to potentially vaccinate against the disease before symptoms appear.’
Co-author Professor Thomas Bayer, from the University Medical Centre Gottingen in Germany, said: ‘In clinical trials, none of the potential treatments which dissolve amyloid plaques in the brain have shown much success in terms of reducing Alzheimer’s symptoms.
‘Some have even shown negative side effects. So we decided on a different approach. We identified an antibody in mice that would neutralise the truncated forms of soluble amyloid beta, but would not bind either to normal forms of the protein or to the plaques.’
The study was conducted in partnership with medical research charity LifeArc. The researchers, whose findings were published last night in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, are looking to find a commercial partner to take the therapeutic antibody and the vaccine through clinical trials.
WHAT IS DEMENTIA? THE KILLER DISEASE THAT ROBS SUFFERERS OF THEIR MEMORIES
Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of neurological disorders
A GLOBAL CONCERN
Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of progressive neurological disorders (those affecting the brain) which impact memory, thinking and behaviour.
There are many different types of dementia, of which Alzheimer’s disease is the most common.
Some people may have a combination of types of dementia.
Regardless of which type is diagnosed, each person will experience their dementia in their own unique way.
Dementia is a global concern but it is most often seen in wealthier countries, where people are likely to live into very old age.
HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE AFFECTED?
The Alzheimer’s Society reports there are more than 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK today, of which more than 500,000 have Alzheimer’s.
It is estimated that the number of people living with dementia in the UK by 2025 will rise to over 1 million.
In the US, it’s estimated there are 5.5 million Alzheimer’s sufferers. A similar percentage rise is expected in the coming years.
As a person’s age increases, so does the risk of them developing dementia.
Rates of diagnosis are improving but many people with dementia are thought to still be undiagnosed.
IS THERE A CURE?
Currently there is no cure for dementia.
But new drugs can slow down its progression and the earlier it is spotted the more effective treatments are.
Source: Alzheimer’s Society
Source: Daily Mail UK