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Potential vaccine and treatment for alzheimer’s

A promising new approach to potentially treat Alzheimer’s disease – and also vaccinate against it – has been developed by a team of UK and German scientists.

Both the antibody-based treatment and the protein-based vaccine developed by the team reduced Alzheimer’s symptoms in mouse models of the disease.

The work is a collaboration between researchers at the University of Leicester, the University Medical Center Göttingen and the medical research charity LifeArc.

Rather than focus on the amyloid beta protein in plaques in the brain, the antibody and vaccine both target a different soluble form of the protein, which is thought to be highly toxic.

Amyloid beta protein naturally exists as highly flexible, string-like molecules in solution, which can join together to form fibres and plaques. 

In Alzheimer’s disease, a high proportion of these string-like molecules become shortened or “truncated”, and some scientists now think that these forms are key to the development and progression of the disease.

Professor Thomas Bayer 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.”

When the team tested the engineered amyloid beta protein in mice, they found that mice who received this “vaccine” did produce TAP01 type antibodies.

The researchers are now looking to find a commercial partner to take the therapeutic antibody and the vaccine through clinical trials.

go.nature.com/3Ckw2Nc

Image credit |Shutterstock

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