Many families face the noxious case of Alzheimer’s as their loved ones start to age. Most of the dementia cases, approximately 67%, are of Alzheimer’s cases affecting senior citizens.
There is currently no cure. Fortunately, this decade has seen noticeable progress in the development of Alzheimer’s vaccines that could prevent cognitive decline. Dr. Takeshi Tabira, a Japanese researcher, is trying to prevent the brain from accumulating harmful proteins by administering a capsule vaccine orally.
NHK World-Japan reached out to Dr. Tabira about his research. His research focuses on the main cause of Alzheimer’s, known as senile plaques. They form on neurons in the brain and can cause problems with their functioning. These cause of plaques are amyloid-beta proteins that are naturally released from the neurons. This waste product is usually disintegrated by enzymes. The enzymes may become less effective as we age and stop clearing the proteins. These enzymes then clump together and form senile plaques.
This is why Dr. Tabira has made it a goal of his research. In 1999, Dr. Dale Schenk, an American scientist, published a foundational study in Nature, that showed how Dr. Schenk caused an immune reaction in Alzheimer’s-prone mice by injecting amyloid-beta proteins. The mice’s immune systems began to attack amyloid-beta. This is a promising example of how the immune system can fight amyloid-beta accumulation. The human trial halted after some participants suffered brain inflammation due to an overactive immune response that targeted the neurons.
Dr. Tabira hopes to solve this problem. To save the neurons, he is interested in inducing an immune response in stomach. He is creating a virus vector (like a shell), which contains a gene that triggers the human production of amyloid-beta proteins. The virus will eventually dissolve and become absorbed into the intestines. This triggers the Th2 immune cell. These cells signal other immune cells to produce antibodies that bind to amyloid-beta. Then the produced antibodies get rid of amyloid-beta in the brain. The brain’s immune cells take care of the amyloid beta.
The capsule “vaccine,” reduces amyloid-beta proteins in the brain. Mouse and monkey tests have proved this. Next is human trials. Vaccine is available to the patients around 50 although some tests are incomplete. This is when Alzheimer’s disease symptoms first appear. A cure for Alzheimer’s disease is essential because of its severity and widespread prevalence.
Research is also being to determine the role of tau protein, another important factor. AADvac1, the vaccine currently under trial, acts in a similar fashion to Dr. Tabira’s but targets abnormal tau. Although it is unclear when or if these vaccines will be approved for general public use, human trials are ongoing. However, Dr. Tabira’s active research is crucial to finding a cure and vaccine.
Dr. Tabira, a Japanese researcher, is developing an oral vaccine to counter the amyloid-beta proteins linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
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