A cure for Alzheimer's disease does not yet exist, but researchers at the University of New Mexico (UNM) are one step closer to finding one.
Alzheimer's disease, a progressive memory disorder, affects an estimated one in three seniors worldwide – a total of 43 million people. Scientists believe that the disease is caused by a slow motion disruption of brain cells related to a protein called rope. More specifically, neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs), collections of saturated tau proteins, are a primary marker of Alzheimer's disease. In a new research paper published in NPJ vaccines, researchers reported that they have developed a vaccine that uses virus-like particles to eliminate tau tangles in mice born to develop similar symptoms to Alzheimer's patients.
"We are pleased with these results, because they seem to be anxious that we can use the body's own immune system to make antibodies against these [tau] tangles …. these antibodies actually bind and clear these rope tangles," Nicole Maphis, PhD student in UNM's Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program, said in a media statement. [1
"These results confirm that the direction of the rope tangles with the help of vaccine intervention can save memory losses and prevent neurons from dying," Maphis says.
Although this has only been tested successfully in mice, researchers are seeking funding to commercialize the vaccine to progress and also test it in humans.
Other recent drug research has suggested that a cure for Alzheimer's may not be so far away.
Earlier this month, the Washington Post published a report claiming that Pfizer researchers found that its rheumatoid arthritis therapy drug Enbrel reduced the risk of Alzheimer's disease by 64 percent. According to the report, Pfizer chose not to investigate these results further, and they did not choose to publish the research, which involved an analysis of hundreds of thousands of insurance claims.
"Enbrel can potentially safely prevent, treat and slow progression of Alzheimer's disease," a document received from the Washington Post says.
Pfizer said it did not publish this information because the drug did not directly reach brain tissue.
"Any science that promises Alzheimer's disease and other dementia and not really sought or shared with the research community makes a dissatisfaction to the millions of individuals facing the disease today and in the future," Maria C. Carrillo, Ph.D. , Chief Scientist of the Alzheimer's Association, said about the report. "Alzheimer's is a personally devastating and fatal disease, the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, where the number of people affected by the disease increases daily."