For the First Time Alzheimer’s Disease Researchers Look at the Tau Protein and the Results Look Good
Alzheimer’s disease is a serious problem in the United States and around the world. In the U.S., it is the sixth leading cause of death. For the top ten leading causes of death, Alzheimer’s disease is the only one that has no cure or way to be prevented. All doctors can hope to do for their patients is slow the progression of the disease and manage the symptoms. Now it seems that good new is on the horizon as the first ever clinical study conducted in humans has yielded some positive results.
Science Dailyandnbsp;is reporting on a clinical study was conducted by the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. The clinical trials they conducted were done to look at how a vaccine could impact the tau protein. The study, the first of tis kind, yielded very positive results. They are reporting that for 29 of the 30 participants, there was a good response from their immune systems to the vaccine and the side effects they experienced were described as minimal.
Prior to this study, the vast majority of the work done on Alzheimer’s disease looked at the amyloid plaques. The antibody drugs that have been tested have encountered problems in the clinical trials process. When they get to the later stages of the clinical study process, the drugs caused very serious side effects in the subjects who received them vs. the placebo. The problems have included inflammation of the brain and a serious accumulation of fluid in the area. Researchers believe that the reasons for these problems is that the antibody drugs will provoke an immune response to the amyloid plaques that are in the blood. Another theory is that the antibodies are able to release any beta amyloid plaques that may be trapped in the walls of the blood vessels.
There are two theories when it comes to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. The first lays the blame squarely on the amyloid plaques that can be seen all over the brain of a person who has the disease. Another theory looks at the role tau proteins have in the development of the condition. In this theory, scientists blame the development of Alzheimer’s disease on the development of neurofibrillary tangles in the brain. New research has shown that when the tau proteins move from place to place in the brain, new neurofibrillary tangles are created.
The researchers at the Karolinska Institutet have developed a vaccine that causes the body to produce antibodies that will attack the tau proteins. They say that the antibodies created by the vaccine go after the protein’s “Achilles’ heel.” For people with Alzheimer’s disease, the tau proteins are hyperphosphorylated. During the process that changes these tau proteins, a new spot is created on the protein structure. That is the area that is targeted by the new vaccine. This area can be found in diseased tau early in the disease progression. Because of the highly specific nature of the action of the antibodies, only diseased tau proteins are impacted. The healthy ones are left alone.
The main side effect that was found in these medical research studies was a reaction at the injection site. Researchers believe that the skin reaction is caused by the use of the aluminum hydroxide in the vaccine. The aluminum hydroxide is added because it encourages the immune system to produce more antibodies. This was the only side effect experienced by the participants of this clinical study. By all accounts the vaccine was found to be very safe and showed a very good ability to encourage the immune system to produce the correct antibodies.
The success of these phase 1 clinical trials has given the Karolinska Institutet hope for future studies on the vaccine. This clinical study did not monitor the subject cognitive function but was only to monitor how effective the vaccine was at targeting the diseased tau protein. Further testing will be conducted to test that and to continue to make sure the vaccine is safe for people. Researchers at the Karolinska Institutet are confident that this is a positive step forward in fighting Alzheimer’s disease. They are planning more tests in the clinical drug development of the vaccine.