Brain and Body

World’s First Alzheimer’s Vaccine May Head Into Human Trials Within Just 3 Years

July 18, 2016 | Kelly Tatera

Man holds sign supporting Alzheimer's research
Photo credit: Alzheimer's Association - Greater Illinois/flickr (CC BY 2.0)

It may even be able to reverse the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

In an exciting announcement last week (July 13), researchers from Flinders University in Australia announced that they’ve made progress with a vaccine candidate that could prevent and potentially even reverse the onset of Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other neurodegenerative diseases.

Working with researchers from the US, the team created a new drug that specifically targets the abnormal amyloid plaque build-up and tau proteins that can lead to Alzheimer’s disease.

The new vaccine was made from a combination of two separate vaccines — one for beta-amyloid and one for tau proteins. When the drugs are combined, they prove to be more effective than when they’re used on their own, according to recent tests on mice. The latest research has been published in Scientific Reports.

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"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,” Flinders University medicine professor Nikolai Petrovsky told 891 ABC.

Petrovsky explains that the vaccine that targets the tau protein was even found to actually reverse some of the symptoms of the neurodegenerative diseases once they’d begun developing.

Therefore, having a new vaccine with the combination effect, “could be used both to give people at a particular age, say 50 years of age when they are perfectly fine, to stop them developing dementia, but potentially also could be given to people at least in the early stages of dementia to actually try and reverse the process," he said.

Even more exciting, Petrovsky says that the vaccine could be trialled in humans within just two to three years.

He told 891 ABC that the vaccine is being “bankrolled” by the US government. "Certainty the US Government is very committed to this program; this year they have allocated $1 billion for research into treatments of Alzheimer's, including our vaccine.”

Basically, unless the researchers hit a major roadblock, it should go into human testing within two or three years.

“If we are successful in pre-clinical trials, in three to five years we could be well on the way to one of the most important developments in recent medical history,” Petrovsky concluded.

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