New hope in Alzheimer’s fight

A new study in which researchers tried to ‘trick’ the immune systems of mice to see amyloid as a foreign substance has yielded new hope in the medical battle against Alzheimer’s disease. Amyloid is a sticky protein that lodges in the brain and is one of the characteristics of Alzheimer’s.

Writing in the prestigious British journal “Nature,” the team of researchers report that their study led to the development of a vaccine that fends off and reduces the deposits of amyloid in mice. Mice in the study were “genetically engineered” to overproduce amyloid. The team is not certain that the vaccine will have the same effect in humans, but human testing of the vaccine is imminent.

The researchers caution that the test results are a long way from a real “breakthrough” in the fight against the scourge of Alzheimer’s. Among many factors, amyloid deposits could turn out to be a symptom of Alzheimer’s, rather than a cause. They also warn that Alzheimer’s patients show other changes in their brains that the mice don’t demonstrate in the same way.

^Peter St. George-Hyslop, a neurobiologist at the University of Toronto, notes that the study shows the possibilityf using immunization on other “protein deposit” diseases, such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Parkinson’s disease and myeloma, a form of cancer.