According to a new study published in Alzheimer's Research and Therapy, the experimental vaccine reduced the accumulation of two types of toxic proteins believed to be a cause of Alzheimer's, without any adverse effects like brain swelling.
The decade-long study was conducted by The University of Texas Southwestern's Peter O'Donnell Jr. Brain Institute.
“If the onset of the disease could be delayed by even five years, that would be enormous for the patients and their families,” said Dr. Doris Lambracht-Washington, the study’s senior author. “The number of dementia cases could drop by half."
Earlier promising vaccines caused "severe brain swelling" in some patients.
The skin-delivered vaccine activates an immune response which reduces build-up of harmful tau and beta-amyloids.
“This study is the culmination of a decade of research that has repeatedly demonstrated that this vaccine can effectively and safely target in animal models what we think may cause Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Roger Rosenberg, founding Director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Center at UT Southwestern. “I believe we’re getting close to testing this therapy in people.”
So far, it has been safely tested in three mammals and that could soon pave the way to clinical trials.
"The vaccine is on a shortlist of promising antibody treatments aimed at protecting against both types of proteins that kill brain cells as they spread in deadly plaques and tangles on the brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients," a news release from UT Southwestern stated.
Alzheimer's progressively deteriorates the brain in roughly 5.7 million American patients. That number is expected to double by 2050, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Right now, there is no effective treatment for Alzheimer's.
The new study says the vaccine may be most effective in patients with high levels of "tau and amyloid stored in the brain," but before the patient has fully developed Alzheimer's.
“The longer you wait, the less effect it will probably have,” Dr. Rosenberg said. “Once those plaques and tangles have formed, it may be too late.”