Joel Shannon USA TODAY
Published 4:57 PM EST Nov 24, 2018
An experimental vaccine that could hold off Alzheimer’s disease is showing results in animal testing, according to researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
Testing in mice has shown that the vaccine safely prevents the buildup of substances in the brain associated with the fatal disease, the team reported this week in the journal Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy.
Following previous research in monkeys and rabbits, the researchers now hope that the vaccine will progress to human trials.
If the vaccine proves safe and effective in humans it could slice the number of dementia diagnoses in half, the study’s senior author told USA TODAY.
Dementia is a term used to broadly describe symptoms of cognitive decline; Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia.
Dr. Doris Lambracht-Washington, a professor of neurology and neurotherapeutics at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, said researches believe the vaccine could extend lives by preventing the disease from developing.
“If the onset of the disease could be delayed by even five years, that would be enormous for the patients and their families,” Lambracht-Washington said in a statement. “The number of dementia cases could drop by half.”
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Lambracht-Washington said that the study marks major progress towards a safe and effective vaccine.
Researchers have previously studied the possibility of a vaccine for Alzheimers, she said, but past approaches have either caused harmful side effects, such as brain inflammation, or used approaches proven to be less effective.
The vaccine works by prompting the body to produce antibodies inhibiting the buildup of amyloid and tau, two proteins that are hallmarks of the degenerative brain disease.
The vaccine is one of several promising treatments aimed at reducing the buildup of those substances before they become deadly plaques and tangles in the brain.
About 5.7 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, according to the University of Texas. The number could double by 2050.
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