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A vaccine to prevent or reverse dementia on the horizon

July 19, 2016
by Nicole Stempak, Senior Editor
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Researchers think they may have found the right formula for a new vaccine that could prevent or reverse the onset of Alzheimer's disease. 

Two separate potential vaccines, one for abnormal beta amyloid and one for tau proteins, have been combined to form the new treatment. The beta amyloid vaccine is thought to work best as a preventive measure for those at risk of dementia, and the recently discovered tau vaccine is thought to be most effective at reversing damage.

"[The proteins are] a bit like the car in your driveway," says study author Nikolai Petrovsky, PhD, director of endocrinology at Flinders Medical Centre at Flinders University to local ABC affiliate 891. "Essentially what happens in people who get Alzheimer's or dementia is they have lots of these broken down proteins in the brain. Essentially what we have designed is a vaccine that makes the immune system produce antibodies and those antibodies act like tow trucks so they come to your driveway, they latch on to the breakdown protein or car and they pull it out of the driveway."

The two drugs are more effective when combined based on recent trials in mice. Clinical trials in humans could start within two to three years and last for three to five years. Petrovsky says initial trials will likely focus on people with early-onset Alzheimer's to determine the drug's effectiveness in slowing or reversing neurodegeneration. He added the vaccine could also be administered as preventive medicine to healthy aging adults to prevent the development of dementia but acknowledges those trials would require more time and money.

The findings from researchers at Flinders University in Adelaide, South Australia, Australia and California-based Institute for Molecular Medicine and University of California, Irvine have been published in the journal Scientific Reports.

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