Monday, July 14, 2008

New Potential for Alzheimer's Vaccine

According to an article published Friday on the Scientific American website, a new Alzheimer's vaccine shows promise for preventing or restricting progress of the disease in a mouse model.

The research builds on an attempt several years ago by Elan Pharmaceuticals to create an Alzheimer's vaccine. That attempt failed after several of the subjects developed brain inflammations and two suffered strokes. The new attempt involves taking an inactivated Herpes virus to transplant a small amount of amyloid beta and a protein called interleukin-4 into subjects (in this case, mice).

By adding the amyloid beta to the virus, the immune system can begin to recognize the amyloid beta as a potential threat. The presence of interleukin-4, it is hoped, will prevent the brain inflammation that plagued the previous attempt at a virus.

While this research shows promise, it will be several years before a treatments is available. And there are several stumbling blocks to overcome yet. The original trials also showed great promise in mouse models, but unexpected results in human trials. And not all forms of amyloid beta are dangerous... indeed, some may be necessary for brain function, and if the vaccine causes the body to attack all forms, it may have unintended—and potentially dangerous—side effects.

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