Alzheimer's Prevention May be Possible with a New Vaccine

Fagjun | Published 2017-06-15 07:34

Alzheimer's can be a devastating disease.
[Photo by Frantzou Fleurine]

A breakthrough development in Alzheimer's prevention takes the form of a vaccine that can prevent and even reverse the disease.

Alzheimer's disease is a condition in which a person, usually older, gradually loses their memory, thinking skills, and even the ability to perform simply tasks. There are a number of causes for the disease in a number of combinations. The disease itself causes dementia, which can severely interfere with a person's ability to maintain a certain standard of life and independence. Severe memory problems may impact people's ability to drive, shop, and even interact with friends and family.

At this point in time, preventing the onset of Alzheimer's is basically just the same as reducing your risk factors. This entails living as healthily as possible by eating well, exercising regularly, stopping smoking, socializing, and a number of other things. However, doing these things won't exactly guarantee that you won't develop Alzheimer's in the future.

Developing Alzheimer's Prevention

There are a lot of things we can do to lower the risks of Alzheimer's. However, there's next to nothing we can do to actually prevent it--until now, that is.

Thus, researchers aimed to develop a vaccine that can actually prevent Alzheimer's. Scientists at Flinders University, America’s Institute of Molecular Medicine, and the University of California have made a breakthrough that may become the first actual vaccine against Alzheimer's. It's true that the Alzheimer's prevention techniques listed above will help you live a long and healthy life. However, they don't guarantee that you won't eventually develop Alzheimer's. They simply lower the risks, which is different from almost entirely eradicating those risks.

However, this vaccine specifically targets the brain proteins that block neurons and cause Alzheimer's. Tau proteins and beta-amyloid are the culprits behind this condition. Alzheimer's patients have a lot of these damaged proteins in their brains. The vaccine then basically removes these proteins to prevent the onset of Alzheimer's. Nikolai Petrovsky, one of the researchers, likens the vaccine to a tow truck. The vaccine pulls the damaged proteins out much like how tow trucks pull cars away.

Prevention and Reversal

You can retain all your memories throughout your old age even if you're at risk for Alzheimer's.
[Photo by Lukas Budimaier]

The researchers also mention that their vaccine doesn't only function as Alzheimer's prevention. It can also reverse the disease as long as it's still in its early stages. According to the paper on the vaccine, the protein a-beta is the first to get damaged in the development of Alzheimer's. Targeting the tau protein was what enabled the vaccine to reverse the progression of the disease. “Towing” both proteins is what makes the vaccine effective in both prevention and reversal.

It may just be a matter of time before we have an Alzheimer's prevention technique that's actually effective. The researchers say that the development of the vaccine will move to its human testing phase in about two to three years.

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