As we find more ways of living healthier and longer, and we research more ways of healing diseases that were previously terminal, we find that Alzheimer’s disease is becoming more and more prevalent. There were more than 48 million cases of dementia in 2015, and it is stepping into the forefront as one of the biggest costs to health care systems worldwide. The WHO projected the total global cost of care related to dential and Alzheimer’s at more than $US600 billion a year. In South Australia alone, nearly 160 are diagnosed with dementia each week.
But we may see all of that changing, thanks to research being developed in partnership between Flinders University’s School of Medicine, and researchers in the U.S. The first ever vaccine formulation to prevent Alzheimer’s is getting close to being a reality, thanks to a breakthrough in research that successfully targets the abnormal proteins that trigger Alzheimer’s.
With more testing and research, it is believed that this could be used to prevent the disease, but may also be able to treat the millions of people already diagnosed as well. Professor Nikolai Petrovsky, from Flinders University’s School of Medicine, said the findings could be lifesaving.
“If we are successful in clinical trials, in three to five years we could be well on the way to one of the most important developments in recent medical history,” he said. “Along with our rapidly ageing populations, we now know that the explosion in type 2 diabetes in the West is likely to further dramatically fuel the projected rise in the number of cases of dementia globally, with diabetes being the major risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.”
The scale of dementia diagnoses is so widespread the US National Institutes of Health have seen an extra $US350 million in funding to help combat it. The protein they believe will be able to be used as a vaccine platform is called MultiTEP, and targets aberrant forms of AB and tau proteins, which as said above is the hallmark trigger of Alzheimer’s disease.
While currently in pre-clinical studies with more work to do to ensure safety, researchers are eager to test the immunogenicity and efficacy of this potential cure in human trials as soon as possible. “This study suggests that we can immunise patients at the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, or even healthy people at risk for Alzheimer’s disease, using our anti-amyloid-beta vaccine, and, if the disease progresses, then vaccinate with another anti-tau vaccine to increase effectiveness,”
Professor Petrovsky is the director of SA vaccine research company Vaxine Pty Ltd, which produced the first swine flu vaccine during the 2009 pandemic and is currently on the forefront of Zika and Ebola research as well. The research findings, reported in Nature’s Scientific Reports journal, are the result of a collaboration between Petrovsky’s team based out of Flinders and US researchers at the Institute for Molecular Medicine and University of California, Irvine.