Posted on May 24, 2017, 10 a.m.
New DNA vaccine, delivered to the skin rather than muscle, produces a different type of immune response that greatly lessens the chance of brain swelling.
Studies conducted at the Peter O'Donnell Jr. Brain Institute have shown that a new DNA vaccine applied to the skin triggers an immune response that generates antibodies to guard against toxic proteins tied to Alzheimer’s disease. This application does not spur significant brain swelling induced by earlier antibody treatments. Details of the study were published in a recent edition of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
About the Studies
The above-referenced studies were conducted on animals. They demonstrate how a vaccine with DNA of the harmful beta-amyloid protein induces a nuanced immune response that might be safe for human beings. The vaccine will likely be further tested by the United States Food and Drug Administration. It is one of the most promising antibody treatments that might soon help determine whether amyloid is a critically important target for warding off or possibly curing Alzheimer’s disease. Plenty of therapies have proved faulty in years past. However, the co-author of the studies, Dr. Roger Rosenberg, is adamant that this new vaccine has potential.
Dr. Rosenberg thought it prudent to commence with DNA coding for amyloid and directly inject it into the skin as opposed to the muscle. The injected skin cells produce the amyloid protein. The body responds by generating new antibodies that deter the accumulation of amyloid. Many scientists have blamed this buildup of amyloid for harming neurons. The DNA vaccine generates a unique immune response in tested animals that greatly reduces the odds of a negative reaction within the brain.
Dr. Rosenberg’s most recent studies display the potential of a DNA vaccine to halt the accumulation of amyloid in individuals who are otherwise healthy. The vaccine was applied to healthy animals, prompting an anti-inflammatory immune response with upwards of 40 times more anti-amyloid antibodies than a prior vaccine tested 10 years ago.
Why the Research is Important
The research is important as it demonstrates how a new DNA vaccine is effective and safe when applied to large mammals. The majority of other vaccines merely generated an immune response in mice instead of large mammals. Humans are more similar to large mammals than mice. The DNA vaccine makes especially high levels of antibody to boot. A number of antibody treatments are currently being researched to specifically target amyloid plaques. It might be possible to preform antibodies in a lab setting and insert them into the body to combat Alzheimer’s disease.
Dr. Rosenberg’s DNA vaccine should be heralded as a breakthrough as it might provide an array of advantages compared to allowing the body to generate its own antibodies by way of active immunization. If this treatment modality is determined to be safe, it would likely prove quite affordable and accessible compared to other options. The DNA vaccine also generates a wide array of antibody types compared to the preformed antibodies. Dr. Rosenberg notes that the vaccines humans receive as children and adults are “active vaccinations”, meaning antibodies are made within the body.
A Look to the Future
Dr. Rosenberg does not hesitate to admit the prevention of amyloid buildup in itself might not suffice in the treatment of Alzheimer’s. However, it will likely prove to be a considerable part of the solution. Rosenberg and his UT Southwestern colleagues are also analyzing the possible benefits of preventing and removing tangled harmful tau proteins from within the brain, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.
Some of those within the scientific community are adamant the reason for amyloid therapy failure is due to too little of the therapy being provided. Some believe the therapy was provided too late. Time will tell if these opinions are true.
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