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Researchers have developed a nasal Alzheimer's vaccine that could change how we treat the condition. The vaccine was successful in reducing atrophied brain matter in mice by blocking a protein that causes the disease.
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A dementia cure
The vaccine also reduced changes and abnormal behavior in the brain normally associated with Alzheimer's. The study was published in the online version of the British science journal Nature.
"Much more research is necessary for the vaccine to be used in humans, but it is an accomplishment that can contribute to the development of a dementia cure," team member Haruhisa Inoue, a professor at Kyoto University, told The Asahi Shimbun.
To this date, there is no cure for Alzheimer's. Some drugs can improve the symptoms, but none can treat the disease altogether.
Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia are characterized by an abnormal accumulation of tau proteins in the brain. In the study, the research team incorporated a gene into a harmless virus to make it produce tau.
They then administered the virus nasally to mice with genes that made them prone to developing dementia. The vaccine proceeded to stimulate the mice's immune system, causing them to build antibodies that removed the tau proteins.
These antibodies were more than double in mice who had the vaccine administered compared to those that did not. In addition, the vaccinated mice's brain areas were only two-thirds as atrophied as those who were not vaccinated.
Finally, no detrimental side effects were recorded during the eight months the scientists observed the mice.
A report by the Alzheimer's Association estimates there are currently more than 5 million Americans over 65 years of age living with Alzheimer’s, and that that number is expected to nearly triple by 2050.