Posted by Sherry C. on Sunday, February 26th, 2017
Scientists have been searching for decades to find clues to unlocking the mystery surrounding Alzheimer’s prevention and treatment. Is it possible that the key to finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is an Alzheimer’s prevention vaccine?
One study conducted by James Nicoll, professor of neuropathology at Southampton University, in the U.K., concluded that a vaccine might be able to initiate the immune system into removing amyloid beta protein (also called plaques) in the brain. Amyloid is an abnormal sticky protein substance that typically accumulates in the brain as a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). These plaques interfere with normal transmission of nerve cells in the brain, and serve as a primary cause of memory loss in AD.
Nicoll commented that while the vaccine stopped the production of amyloid in the brain (during the study), he was amazed to discover that the symptoms of cognitive decline, and eventually the rate of early death, was NOT slowed down by the vaccine.
Alzheimer’s Prevention Theory
One theory resulting from Nicoll’s research is the possibility that if people could be given the vaccine before symptoms of AD became severe (no later than age 50), the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s could possibly be prevented.
Alzheimer’s Prevention and Mouse Studies
Based on successful results from immunization in mouse AD models (in past clinical studies), more recent studies were implemented using active and passive immunizations. But active immunization in humans resulted in an autoimmune inflammatory response, so those trials were stopped.
Passive immunity, however has showed much more promise in slowing down the Alzheimer’s disease process in clinical studies. More recently, a study published in 2017 by PubMed.gov (The U.S. National Library of Medicine) from the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, looked at aged rabbits to observe the effect of a DNA Vaccine.
These immunizations were administered to rabbits using a gene gun (a biolistic particle delivery system) into the skin and the results were, absence of inflammatory immune response. Although positive effects on pathology of AD in the brain were seen in rabbit studies, these benefits have not yet been observed in humans. However, based on the results of the test on rodents, some studies indicate immunization has a high likeliness of being safe and effective in future clinical Alzheimer’s prevention trials on humans.
Alzheimer’s Prevention and the Immune System
In an article published by the journal of Science Translated Medicine, the function of plaques in the disease process is not clear. Rudolph Tanzi of Harvard Medical School asked the question, “does it play a role in the brain, or is it just garbage that accumulates?” But recently Tanzi has shown that these plaques may be a defense against invading pathogens. Tanzi’s research team at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, found that beta-amyloid may comprise part of the immune system, acting as an anti-microbial compound. This theory certainly makes sense considering the positive results that previous studies have realized when it comes the impact of the vaccine on beta-amyloid.
To test the relationship between AD and the immune system the research team injected bacteria into the brains of mice AD models. The study indicated that plaques formed overnight. “When you look in the plaques, each one had a single bacterium in it,” says Tanzi. “A single bacterium can induce an entire plaque overnight.”
The study concluded that there is a possibility that infections in the brain could trigger amyloid-beta plaque formation, as the sticky substance attempts to kill bacteria and other pathogens. Then if amyloid does not get removed by the body quickly enough, the result may be tau tangles (another abnormal protein in the brain, common in AD) which leads to death to the nerve cells, and ultimately comprises symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
The good news is that if AD, in fact, stems from pathogens in the brain, a vaccine may be possible in the future.
Learn more about Alzheimer’s disease in the ground-breaking book written by Dr. Richard Isaacson, Harvard trained neurologist. The book is called The Alzheimer’s Treatment and Prevention Diet, you can CLICK HERE to read more about it.