Despite years of research, we still do not have a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease. However, this research continues to provide more and more insight into the dementia condition and, as such, a team of researchers from the University of New Mexico say they may have found a means to prevent it. This could be quite the breakthrough since Alzheimer’s disease affects nearly one-third of all senior citizens, affecting approximately 43 million people, globally.
Kiran Bhaskar is an associate professor with the University of New Mexico Health and Services Department. He comments that the hunt for a cure began with a simple idea in 2013. It took about five years to develop a possible vaccine that could prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
PhD student Nicole Maphis notes that the experiment tested the potential vaccine on a group of mice that have Alzheimer’s disease. The vaccine, administered over a series of injections, targets a specific protein called tau. Tau is commonly found in the brain of all Alzheimer’s patients.
Maphis goes on to say, “These antibodies seem to have cleared [out] pathological tau. Pathological tau is one of the components of these tangles that we find in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease.”
These long tangles “disrupt the ability of neurons to communicate with one another,” adding that tau normally performs as a stabilizing structure within the neurons.
For the test, then, the test mice were put in a series of maze-like tests. Those specimens which received the vaccine performed far better than those mice who had not received the vaccine.
That said, it should be noted that while testing on mice is always hopeful, drugs that work on mice do not always function the same way in humans. As such, it is important to develop a clinical trial for humans that will better determine if it is not only effective in humans but also safe, of course.
And, of course, human testing is much more complicated and, thus, more expensive. The UNM Health Services Department says it will cost upwards of $2 million to test even just a small group.