AsianScientist (Dec. 9, 2011) – Researchers at the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Research Institute (BMRI) have developed a vaccine that slows the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.
The vaccine targets a protein known as tau, thereby preventing the continuous formation of neurofibrillary tangles in the brain of a mouse with Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects more than 35 million people worldwide. The tau protein is also involved in front temporal dementia, the second most common form of dementia in people under 65 years old.
The results of the study led to the production of the vaccine and have been published today in the scientific journal PLoS ONE.
“Our study is the first to show that a vaccine targeting the tau protein can be effective once the disease has already set in,” said Lars Ittner, lead author and Associate Professor at the University of Sydney.
Ittner explains that the vaccine appears to have a preventative effect – slowing the development of further tangles, rather than clearing existing ones. However, he says, the exact mechanism involved is not yet understood.
According to Ittner, scientists have been working on vaccines that target the amyloid plaques in Alzheimer’s for many years with a few currently in clinical trials.
“Most of the other vaccines targeting tau were tested only before or around the onset of the disease in animal models, but the vast majority of people with Alzheimer’s disease are only diagnosed after the symptoms have appeared,” he said.
Ittner’s team is already collaborating with the U.S. pharmaceutical industry to develop this new vaccine for humans.
Source: University of Sydney.
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