Exciting news: Today marks the first day of a clinical trial looking into a new — and super promising — Alzheimer’s vaccine. While there’s much work to be done before such a product could ever go to market, there are also plenty of reasons to get excited at what the data could potentially show.
Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, occurs when abnormal protein buildup in the brain creates communication issues between neurons themselves and between neurons and the rest of the body. In other words, your body and your brain just can’t sync up. Currently it’s a disease without a cure, and it gets progressively worse as time goes on, first starting with mild memory loss and eventually getting to a point where people can’t do basic daily tasks without assistance. There are almost six million people in the U.S. living with Alzheimer’s, and around 10 percent of Americans over the age of 65 have some form of dementia. Given its prevalence, a vaccine can’t come soon enough.
This vaccine trial is coming after over 20 years of research and development into a formula, and so far, we only know a few specifics. Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital will study 16 patients between the ages of 60 and 85 who show early signs of Alzheimer’s, and they’ll receive their vaccine dose in nasal form. While we don’t know too much about how the treatment works, its main ingredient, Protollin, reportedly targets the immune system. It activates white blood cells in the neck’s lymph nodes that eventually move to the brain and destroy harmful beta amyloid plaques, a type of protein that contributes to Alzheimer’s.
“The launch of the first human trial of a nasal vaccine for Alzheimer’s is a remarkable milestone,” Howard L. Weiner, MD, co-director of the Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases at Brigham, told the media. “Over the last two decades, we’ve amassed preclinical evidence suggesting the potential of this nasal vaccine for [Alzheimer’s]. If clinical trials in humans show that the vaccine is safe and effective, this could represent a nontoxic treatment for people with Alzheimer’s, and it could also be given early to help prevent Alzheimer’s in people at risk.”
This clinical trial is just the first step in what’ll no doubt be a long process to official approval. The vaccine will have to be tested numerous times before heading to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for review and its own series of protocols. Still, it sounds like the vaccine is heading in a positive direction!