Is an Alzheimer’s vaccine on the way?

New research suggests we may be one step closer to treating -- and preventing -- the degenerative brain disease

Topics: Alzheimer's Disease, Brain, Science, research study, ,

A team of researchers from Université Laval, CHU de Québec and pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has discovered a way to stimulate the brain’s natural defense mechanisms in people with Alzheimer’s disease, opening the door to the development of a treatment for the degenerative brain illness — and a vaccine to prevent it.

As reported by Science Daily:

One of the main characteristics of Alzheimer’s disease is the production in the brain of a toxic molecule known as amyloid beta. Microglial cells, the nervous system’s defenders, are unable to eliminate this substance, which forms deposits called senile plaques.

The team led by Dr. Serge Rivest, professor at Université Laval’s Faculty of Medicine and researcher at the CHU de Québec research center, identified a molecule that stimulates the activity of the brain’s immune cells. The molecule, known as MPL (monophosphoryl lipid A), has been used extensively as a vaccine adjuvant by GSK for many years, and its safety is well established.

Over a twelve-week period, researchers gave mice with Alzheimer’s symptoms weekly injections of MPL. The results were dramatic, eliminating up to 80% of senile plaques and significantly improving cognitive function. The mice were also able to learn new tasks over the same period.

As it stands, researchers see two possible uses for MPL. It could be used in injections to slow the progression of the illness for people with Alzheimer’s disease – or it could be incorporated into a vaccine.



The vaccine would stimulate the production of antibodies against amyloid beta. It could be effective in promoting natural immunity in people who already have the disease, but it may also be effectively administered as a preventative measure. This is a profound breakthrough in the study of the illness, researchers say, and offers new hope for those with significant genetic risk factors and a family history of Alzheimer’s.

The results even surprised the researchers themselves.

“When our team started working on Alzheimer’s disease a decade ago, our goal was to develop better treatment for Alzheimer’s patients,” explained Dr. Serge Rivest, professor at Université Laval’s Faculty of Medicine and researcher at the CHU de Québec research center. “With the discovery announced today, I think we’re close to our objective.”

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at kmcdonough@salon.com.

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.

    Domino's

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.

    Arby's/Facebook

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.

    KFC

    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.

    Pizzagamechangers.com

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.

    7-Eleven

    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>