An experimental Alzheimer’s disease vaccine may soon be able to cut dementia cases in half and delay effects of the degenerative brain disease by five years.
Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas said the new vaccine showed promising results during recent animal testing and are hopeful the vaccine will make it to human trials.
The journey from animal tests to human use is long and arduous, and many promising cures do not withstand it. But a senior author of the research published this week in the journal Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy told USA Today if the vaccine is proven safe and effective during human trials it could reduce the total number of dementia diagnoses in half.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, which is the broad term used to describe symptoms of cognitive decline that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior.
The experimental vaccine marks a monumental push forward in the fight against dementia, with previous Alzheimer’s vaccines causing damaging side effects including brain inflammation. Recent tests on monkeys and rabbits found the vaccine works by prompting the body to produce antibodies that reduce the buildup of amyloid and tau. Both proteins are typically indicative of the degenerative brain disease’s presence in the body.
Doris Lambracht-Washington, a professor of neurology and neurotherapeutics at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, told USA Today she believes the vaccine may extend people’s lives and stop the disease from spreading through the brain.
“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. “The number of dementia cases could drop by half.”
Two abnormal protein structures called plaques and tangles can build up in the brain and disrupt nerve cells. The new vaccine may be able to stop such a build-up of these proteins without causing autoimmune inflammation, the researchers wrote.
According to the Alzheimer’s Assocation, the disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. About 5.7 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s and researchers predict that number will rise to 14 million by 2050. Between 2000 and 2015, deaths related to Alzheimer’s disease increased by 123 percent.
Ruth Itzhaki, a professor in the Division of Neuroscience and Experimental Psychology at the University of Manchester, U.K., told Newsweek last month that a commonly transmitted herpes virus could be causing 50 percent Alzheimer’s disease cases. According to the World Health Organization, about 3.7 billion people under the age of 50, or about 67 percent of the world’s population, have the herpes simplex virus type 1 in their body.
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