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A vaccine for Down syndrome has promise for Alzheimer's disease

January 15, 2016
by Nicole Stempak, Associate Editor
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Researchers are testing a vaccine that could reduce brain plaque buildup in adults with Down syndrome, the same plaque buildup found in Alzheimer's disease.

The ACI-24 vaccine contains antibodies to reduce accumulation of beta-amyloids in the brain without triggering a larger immune system response. In the first clinical trial of its kind, the vaccine will be given to people with Down syndrome because the disorder is caused by an abnormality on chromosome 21, which is also responsible for the gene regulating expression of beta-amyloid.

A person with Down syndrome is three to five times more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease and at earlier onset. Virtually all DS patients display beta-amyloid neuropathology by age 40, according to trial organizers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and the Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study.

"Persons with Down syndrome represent predictable cases of Alzheimer’s disease," says William Mobley, MD, PhD,in a university issued news release. He is chair of the Department of Neurosciences in the UC San Diego School of Medicine and executive director of the Down Syndrome Center for Research and Treatment.

"This trial and vaccine offer a dual opportunity. First, it may be a way to modify progression of the disease through anti-amyloid intervention. Second, it should provide important insights about the efficacy and timing of such interventions when targeting sporadic Alzheimer’s disease in the general population."

The study will be conducted in collaboration with AC Immune, a Switzerland based biotechnology company. It will involve 24 adults with Down syndrome between the ages of 35 and 45. Participants will be treated for 12 months and receive 12 months of follow-up. Funding is provided by the National Institutes of Health and a grant from the LuMind Research Down Syndrome Foundation.

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