Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia (or loss of global cognitive ability more than expected of normal aging) and affects nearly 5.4 million Americans. Currently, there is no cure for the disease which progressively gets worse and eventually leads to death.
Efforts to curtail the disease via vaccination have not panned out so well in the past as past vaccines often led to patients’ immune systems attacking their own brain tissue. A new vaccine trailed by the Karolinska Institutet (in Sweden), however, was able to induce a favorable immune response: one in which the patient’s immune system attacked beta-amyloid plaques (the cause of Alzheimer’s disease) without attacking the patient’s own brain tissue as well.
The vaccine, dubbed CAD106, induces the immune system to recognize part of the beta-amyloid protein as an antigen (a biological targeting beacon for the immune system). The idea is that if the immune system can recognize beta-amyloid, it will be able to recognize beta-amyloid plaques (as these plaques are simply clumps of beta-amyloid). The trial, taking place over 3 years, found that 80% of patients developed antibodies for the beta-amyloid protein (or that their immune systems developed the capacity to recognize and target beta-amyloid proteins), with no harmful side effects.
While this trial suggests that CAD106 is safe and induces a favorable antibody response, further (larger) studies will be required to both confirm safety and validate vaccine effectiveness in terms of reducing the severity of Alzheimer’s disease.