Alzheimer's vaccine candidate shows promise

Around 90,000 people are thought to suffer from Alzheimer's in Switzerland Keystone

A new potential vaccine for the degenerative brain disorder Alzheimer's disease has shown promise in tests on mice, according to researchers in Zurich and Boston.

This content was published on May 3, 2006

The results, published in the latest edition of the Journal of Neuroscience, show that the vaccine impedes the appearance of a protein that is a hallmark of the disease.

Beta-amyloid proteins amass in the brain when a person suffers from Alzheimer's.

These so-called plaques are considered to be a typical indicator of the disease, although nobody has been able to precisely describe what role they play.

The vaccine candidate is made up of shortened strands of the protein, helping the immune system produce anti-bodies to beta-amyloids.

Improvements in the so-called Alzheimer's mice used by the researchers came after the vaccine was applied once a week inside the animals' noses.

Nasal sprays are one delivery system being seriously considered for Alzheimer's vaccines.

While they produced anti-bodies, the animals did not suffer from side effects seen in earlier vaccine tests. One clinical trial was called off after patients taking part in the test caused an immune overreaction that led to severe brain swelling.

The results of the latest study, carried out at the Harvard Medical School in Boston, showed that learning skills and memory improved in the mice.

Marcel Maier, a researcher at Zurich University and the main author of the article, said that the new vaccine could be a precursor for a generation of vaccines against Alzheimer's with no side effects.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

More than 24 million people around the world suffer from Alzheimer's disease and related afflictions.
This number is expected to double in the next 20 years, with a new case every seven seconds, according to a recent study published in the Lancet medical review.
In Switzerland, around 90,000 people suffer from some form of degenerative brain disease.

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In brief

Aloïs Alzheimer first described the disease named after him in 1907.

Brain cells are slowly destroyed, leading to a decline in mental faculties. Typical symptoms are memory loss and disorientation.

Elderly people are the first victims of Alzheimer's, with 8% of the over-65s suffering from the disease. But there is also early form (10% of cases) that afflicts 30- to 50-year-olds.

There is still no explanation as to what triggers the disease.

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