Rather than targeting amyloid plaques, attacking the Alzheimer's Tau protein induced a positive immune response in 29 of the 30 study volunteers.
Sadly, we haven’t yet discovered how to cure Alzheimer’s disease, which affects about 5.4 million Americans, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
However, scientists from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden have just published some promising new research, implicating the Alzheimer’s Tau protein as a worthy target for vaccines.
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The study authors developed a vaccine that stimulates the production of an antibody — a protein used by the immune system to target pathogens — that specifically attacks pathological Tau proteins.
When faced with the vaccine, healthy Tau proteins undergo structural changes that form a new region, which is then attacked by the antibody. Further, this problem region exists in diseased Tau early on, but as the researchers explain, it’s effectively the “Achilles’ heel” of the protein.
Thus, the antibody attacks all the different types of pathological Tau. An added plus is that the antibody stimulates an immune response that is not typically present in humans, which prevents the development of an immune reaction towards the body itself.
However, it’s worth noting that some of the participants experienced a skin reaction at the site of injection. Aluminum hydroxide, a substance used in vaccines to enhance the body’s antibody production, is thought to bring about this kind of skin reaction in some people. No other serious side-effects related to the vaccine were observed.
Although this was only a phase 1 trial, its success certainly brings hope that scientists are inching closer to discovering how to stop the progress of the devastating Alzheimer’s disease.
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