Is a nasal vaccine against Alzheimer’s disease on the horizon?

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Research in mouse models indicates a potential nasal vaccine against Alzheimer’s disease. But will it prove to be viable in humans? Image credit: Dobrila Vignjevic / Getty Images.
  • Alzheimer’s disease is a major cause of death.
  • There is currently no known cure.
  • Scientists have developed an effective nasal vaccine to protect and treat mice with Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Scientists are currently testing the vaccine on a small group of humans to see if it’s safe.

A new phase 1 trial of a nasal vaccine against Alzheimer’s disease begins. Scientists have used the vaccine successfully in mouse models that mimic some of the characteristics of Alzheimer’s disease.

If the new trial shows that the vaccine is safe for humans, further studies will verify whether it is also effective.

Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease and the The most common type of dementia.

People with the disease usually develop symptoms after the age of 60. Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by the gradual loss of cognitive function, and when it is most severe, a person may not be able to respond to the world around them.

About 5.8 million in the United States, people suffered from Alzheimer’s disease in 2020, and it is the sixth leading cause of death in adults.

There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, and treatments are generally aimed at helping people manage its symptoms.

Scientists at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston are now starting a Phase 1 clinical trial to see if a potential treatment might be safe for humans.

Previously, the team had shown that the nasal vaccine could prevent and treat disease in a mouse model that mimics Alzheimer’s disease. These studies were published in 2005, 2008, and 2012.

Dr Howard L. Weiner, chief of research and co-director of the Ann Romney Center for Neurological Diseases at the hospital, says, “The launch of the first human trial of a nasal vaccine against Alzheimer’s disease is a remarkable milestone.

“Over the past two decades, we have accumulated preclinical evidence suggesting the potential of this nasal vaccine against Alzheimer’s disease. If clinical trials in humans show the vaccine to be safe and effective, it could represent a non-toxic treatment for people with Alzheimer’s disease, and it could also be given early to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s in people at risk, ”says Dr. Weiner.

The vaccine uses the adjuvant Protollin to stimulate the immune system. In other treatments, it has been shown to be safe for humans.

Scientists hope the vaccine will activate white blood cells located in the lymph nodes in the neck, encouraging these immune cells to clear beta-amyloid plaques. Scientists believe that these amyloid plaques are a key cause of Alzheimer’s disease symptoms.

Talk to Medical News Today, Dr Oscar Lopez, the director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at the University of Pittsburgh, said: “This is a new avenue for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders. “

“The mechanism of action – stimulation of the immune system – and nasal administration of the compound make this therapy very attractive for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease,” he explained.

“Investigators will initiate a phase 1 study, usually conducted to determine the appropriate dosage and pharmacokinetics of the drugs. If this is positive, they can move forward with phase 2 and phase 3 studies to determine the effectiveness and safety of the treatment.

Although the start of the Phase 1 trial is an exciting development, there are still many hurdles to prove that the vaccine is a safe and effective treatment.

Talk to MNT, Teacher. Tara Spiers-Jones – Personal Chairman of Neurodegeneration and Deputy Director of the Center for Discovery Brain Sciences, University of Edinburgh – explained that there is a significant gap between mouse models and human participants: mice to humans. Mice are not perfect models.

Further, she noted, “This trial is only for 16 people and is primarily about security. They’ve used a similar approach in humans before, so [we know] it is safe in some populations.

“[However, in the trial] they take older people who actually have symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and use small amounts of this vaccine to make sure it is safe for people with Alzheimer’s disease. So, it’s still only the early days.

“If it’s safe for them, they’ll move on to another part of the process, where they start to see if it’s working. So for now, it’s just a matter of testing if it’s even going to be possible to use.

Professor Spiers-Jones added that there is a good rationale behind the study:

“In terms of scientific rationale, the idea that immune cells in the brain are involved in the development of Alzheimer’s disease is strong. This particular approach is very general – it does not target anything specific about Alzheimer’s disease – so it is not known whether this general boost in people will effectively fight Alzheimer’s disease.

“In fact, he could [also] going the wrong way because we know that immune system cells are involved in multiple ways at different stages of disease, ”she noted.

“So what I take away from home is that it’s exciting that things are moving forward, but you want to be careful, because it’s only the first few days, and we don’t know if it will even be safe. , much less efficient. “

Prof Spiers-Jones explained that the timing and approach to target the immune response would be critical.

“The immune cells are, in part, useful in the brain – they eliminate pathologies. And then, in part, they get sick and noxious and secrete toxic substances and cause this inflammation, ”she said.

“But the worry is that if you don’t specifically target this immune response at the right time in the disease process, or if you don’t do it the right way, you could potentially make things worse in the brain.”

“There has also been a bit of classic concern in the field that if you remove this amyloid protein from the brain – especially if it’s wrapped around the blood vessels where it has degenerated – you could cause a bit of damage,” Prof Spiers -Jones told us. “I don’t think it plays out because lowering amyloid is generally pretty safe, so I wouldn’t worry too much about that.”

“But it’s not specifically about amyloid decrease – it’s generalized immune boosting – and I’m not sure anyone yet knows if global boosting is a good thing. But it has been helpful. in mice.

Professor Spires-Jones suggested the new treatment had a better chance of preventing Alzheimer’s disease than treating its symptoms.

“I think this is more likely to be effective in preventing rather than treating, simply because our experience of everything that has been tried to treat people who already have conditions has been poor at best,” he said. she declared.

“If it works, that would be amazing. If we could prevent Alzheimer’s disease, that would be the best possible outcome, and theoretically it would be a safe way because researchers suggest this type of vaccine has been used in humans before.

“If it was safe and we could give it to anyone in their 60s who might even be at a small risk, or who already has positive signs for amyloid, that would be a game changer.” It’s more likely to work, in my opinion, ”Prof Spiers-Jones said.

Many cases of dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease in particular, can be prevented with lifestyle and behavior changes, and Professor Spires-Jones said it’s crucial to highlight this.

“The most important message to take away from any study like this is that right now we estimate that about 40% of all-cause dementias, of which Alzheimer’s disease is about 60%, could be prevented by lifestyle, modifiable risk factors. “

The researcher explained, “These are the same things you would want to do anyway to protect your heart and vascular system to lower your risk of stroke and heart attack. These are things like exercising, eating healthy foods, and staying physically, mentally, and socially active.

“A rather surprising [risk factor] is that hearing loss is associated with an increased risk of dementia – we don’t really understand if this is the cause or effect of the brain changes, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt to get your hearing aids on, wear them and stay energized.

She added: “It doesn’t mean that lifestyle or behavior changes can help everyone. There is 60% dementia and Alzheimer’s disease [cases] that are genetically driven. So it’s not about blaming people with dementia – there are people who are just going to be unlucky. “

“But for some of us, [making key changes] can prevent [the disease] and make a big difference, so you might as well take care of all of us. This protects our brain, as well as the rest of our body.


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