Vaccine shows promise for treating Alzheimer’s


Associated Press

Taking what could be an important step toward preventing Alzheimer’s, scientists found that an experimental vaccine can largely ward off memory loss in mice stricken with a similar disease.

The vaccine is already being tested in people.

“This potentially could be a major breakthrough for us,” said Zaven Khachaturian, senior science adviser to the Alzheimer’s Association.

But he stressed that treatments that work in mice do not necessarily help people and that the mouse research did not deal with some key mental abilities lost in Alzheimer’s, such as language and judgment.

The vaccine made headlines last year when scientists reported that it largely blocks the formation of protein deposits called amyloid plaques in the brains of mice. Such plaques are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s.

But the next step was to find whether the vaccine makes any difference in the animals’ mental functioning.

Two studies published in Thursday’s issue of the journal Nature found that the vaccine does indeed make a difference.

The research was conducted by two independent research teams, centered at the University of South Florida in Tampa and the University of Toronto in Ontario, Canada.

The studies used strains of mice that develop lots of amyloid plaques in their brains, along with measurable memory deficits, because of the genes they carry.

The researchers used different versions of a procedure in which mice swam until they learned the location of an underwater platform. The animals were then tested to see how well they remembered where the platform was. Alzheimer’s patients frequently have trouble remembering locations and how to get to destinations.

Both studies found that mice that had been repeatedly vaccinated performed markedly better than the untreated plaque-forming mice in the memory tests. On some occasions they did as well or nearly as well as ordinary mice.

University of South Florida researcher Dave Morgan said his vaccinated mice were slower to learn the platform location but eventually remembered it as well as ordinary mice did.

This past July, drug company scientists announced that preliminary results in human patients indicated the vaccine was safe. Those tests were not designed to assess any effect on symptoms.

Human tests are continuing under the sponsorship of Elan Corp. of Dublin, Ireland, and American Home Products Corp. of Madison, N.J. Neither company paid for the new mouse studies.

The researchers who carried out the mouse studies said it is not clear why the vaccine protects memory. For one thing, the research does not settle the question of whether the plaques actually cause the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

The vaccine was designed to make the mouse immune system attack amyloid-beta peptide, also called beta amyloid, a key component of the brain plaques in Alzheimer’s. And both studies found that vaccinated mice had fewer and smaller amyloid plaques in their brains.

But Morgan noted that his treated mice still had a lot of plaques.

He and Dr. Peter St George-Hyslop, one of the University of Toronto researchers, suggested the vaccine might act on a harmful form of amyloid-beta peptide outside of the plaques.

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Arif Ghouseat flips through his work binder in his office conference room Paine Field on Monday, Dec. 10, 2018 in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Paine Field Airport director departing for Sea-Tac job

Arif Ghouse, who oversaw the launch of commercial air travel at Paine Field, is leaving after eight years.

NO CAPTION. Logo to accompany news of education.
Public school enrollment still down, even as rural districts grow

Smaller districts in Snohomish County seem to be recovering more quickly — and gaining students — than their urban counterparts.

Angelica Montanari and daughter Makena, 1, outside of the Community Health Center of Snohomish County Everett-Central Clinic on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Amid patient woes, CHC of Snohomish County staffers push for a union

Doctors and nurse practitioners are worried about providers being shut out from clinical decisions, which hurts patient care.

Students make their way after school at Edmonds-Woodway High School on March 12, 2020. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
After Edmonds schools internet outage, staff ‘teaching like it’s the 1900s’

“Suspicious activities” on the district’s network delayed classes and caused schedule havoc. “Kids are using pencil and paper again.”

NO CAPTION NECESSARY: Logo for the Cornfield Report by Jerry Cornfield. 20200112
Retooling drug laws, protecting octopus and honoring a cactus

It’s already Day 26. Here’s what’s happening in the 2023 session of the Washington Legislature

April Berg, left, and John Lovick
Snohomish County legislators talk race, policy in Seattle

Rep. April Berg and Sen. John Lovick chatted about Tyre Nichols and education at an event kicking off Black History Month.

A suspect removes a rifle bag from a broken rear window of a Seattle police car on May 30 in downtown Seattle. An Everett man, Jacob D. Little, 24, has been charged with the theft of the high-powered rifle stolen from the car. This image is from the criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court. 20200904
Everett man sentenced for stealing police gun in Seattle protest

Jacob Little, 26, now faces second-degree murder charges for allegedly killing a man in Renton in August 2020.

Switzerland delegate Markus Herrmann listens while 12th grade students speak with him during a special event set up for their AP Comparative Government class at Glacier Peak High School on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023 in Snohomish, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
European delegates talk American culture with Glacier Peak students

Representatives from 18 different EU countries made a stop in Snohomish during their US tour.

Community Transit is leasing a 60-foot articulated BYD battery electric bus this year as an early step in the zero emission planning process. (Community Transit)
Community Transit testing 60-foot electric bus

The agency leased the BYD K11M for $132,000 this year as the first step in its zero-emission planning process.

Most Read