The new vaccine contains DNA coding for a segment of the beta-amyloid protein building block, or peptide. In the study the vaccine triggered an immune response that not only led to a 40 per cent reduction in beta-amyloid build-up, but also reduced tau formation by 50 per cent.
Lead scientist Dr Roger Rosenberg, director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Center at the University of Texas in the US, said: “This study is the culmination of a decade of research that has repeatedly demonstrated that this vaccine can effectively and safely target in animal models what we think may cause Alzheimer’s disease.” A major obstacle to developing effective Alzheimer’s vaccines has been finding safe ways to introduce them to the body. Actual effects seen in mice would have “major therapeutic value”, said the researchers. As a consequence, “the number of dementia cases could drop by half.” The vaccine will be injected into the skin rather than the muscle. Co-author Dr Doris Lambracht-Washington, another member of the University of Texas team, said: “If the onset of the disease could be delayed by even five years, that would be enormous for the patients and their families.”