Imagine an Alzheimer's patient receiving a vaccine made of specialized blood cells and then showing a much- improved memory. Also, imagine that vaccine having no side effects and needing to be given only occasionally.
Researchers at the Johnnie B. Byrd, Sr. Alzheimer's Center & Research Institute in Tampa, Florida, have not only imagined these things, they have actually developed such a vaccine that they show reverses memory loss in Alzheimer's mice.
In a study published this week in the journal, Neurobiology of Disease, researchers report that tests of the new vaccine on mice shows promise of reversing memory loss and seriously slowing the effects of Alzheimer's on patients. The groundbreaking research was done by investigators from the Byrd Alzheimer's Institute, the University of South Florida, and University of California Riverside.
In the study, researchers took ordinary white blood cells (immune cells) from normal mice and exposed those white blood cells to an abnormal protein called "beta-amyloid." Beta-amyloid accumulates in Alzheimer's brains and appears to be the root cause of this devastating disease.
A single injection of white blood cells "sensitized" to beta-amyloid was given to Alzheimer's mice with impaired memories and Alzheimer's-like brain pathologies. When the Alzheimer's mice were tested several months later, their memory performance was surprisingly improved, even up to the level of normal mice. Moreover, this single vaccine treatment increased connections between brain cells and reduced brain levels of beta-amyloid in the Alzheimer's mice.
"This adoptive transfer vaccine approach is important not only for the long-term benefits it provides, but also for what it doesn't provide — harmful side effects," said Gary Arendash, Ph.D, a principal investigator on the study and a Byrd Institute researcher.
Plans for clinical trials with the new vaccine in Alzheimer's patients are underway at the Byrd Alzheimer's Center and Research Institute. "Even if this new vaccine does not cure Alzheimer's disease, it may significantly slow down the disease process and thus provide years of quality life to individuals diagnosed with the disease," said Arendash.
The new vaccine created by Byrd Institute researchers and their collaborators did not induce an inflammatory response in either the blood or brain of Alzheimer's mice, said Dr. Douglas Ethell of the University of California, another principle investigator in the study.
Information on the study and helpful information on treatment and prevention of Alzheimer's disease can be found at: http://www.byrdinstitute.org.