Scientists from the University of Leicester in the UK along with a team from the University of Medical Center Göttingen in Germany and the research charity LifeArc have made exciting progress in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease.
The team developed a new method that could potentially help treat, and possibly vaccinate, against Alzheimer’s disease, according to a press statement, by creating an antibody-based treatment and a protein-based vaccine that successfully reduced Alzheimer’s symptoms in mice.
A different approach to Alzheimer’s treatment
Their findings, which were published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, focus on a “truncated” soluble form of the amyloid-beta protein, a substance associated with Alzheimer’s disease that is found in plaques in the brain. Scientists hypothesize that the soluble form is crucial to the development and progression of the brain disease.
“In clinical trials, none of the potential treatments which dissolve amyloid plaques in the brain have shown much success in terms of reducing Alzheimer’s symptoms,” said Professor Thomas Bayer from the University Medical Center Göttingen. “Some have even shown negative side effects.”
This is why the team decided to try a different approach. “We identified an antibody in mice that would neutralize the truncated forms of soluble amyloid-beta but would not bind either to normal forms of the protein or to the plaques.”
A never-before-seen hairpin-shaped protein structure
While testing a new “humanized” version of this antibody, which is called TAP01_04, the researchers found that it would bind to the truncated form of amyloid-beta and create a never-before-seen hairpin-shaped structure. This unique shape allowed the team to concoct a stable fragment of a specific region of the protein that could possibly be used to develop a vaccine that would cause the immune system to produce TAP01_04 type antibodies.
In the trials with mice, the researchers found that the mice that received the protein were able to produce the required antibody and that the treatment and “vaccine” protein helped to restore nerve cell function, memory loss, and reduce amyloid-beta plaque formation.
The next step would be to develop the treatment further so that it can go to human trials, which could potentially lead to a major improvement in our medical capacity to combat Alzheimer’s, boost brain health, and change many lives for the better.
Study source: Molecular Psychiatry—Discovery of a novel pseudo β-hairpin structure of N-truncated amyloid-β for use as a vaccine against Alzheimer’s disease