Over 40 years of research and development into treatments for Alzheimer’s disease has yielded few results, being marked by a string of repeated failures of stage III clinical trials, the final stage of drug testing before Food and Drug Administration approval for market sale. Some experts have gone so far as to describe the lack of effective treatments for Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases as “one of modern medicine’s greatest frustrations.” However, an Alzheimer’s vaccine under development offers new hope according to Forbes.
The results of successful Alzheimer’s vaccine trials in mice was published in December in the journal Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy, documenting the work of U.S. medical researchers from the Institute for Molecular Medicine and the University of California, Irvine with Nikolai Petrovsky, a professor at Flinders University in Australia who developed the vaccine. The Alzheimer’s vaccine may progress to clinical trials with human subjects. Unlike currently available treatments that only mask symptoms, the new Alzheimer’s vaccine would slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease itself. The vaccine is not appropriate for preventing Alzheimer’s disease in healthy individuals.
The neurological hallmarks of Alzheimer’s are commonly referred to as “plaques and tangles,” which are abnormal brain changes tied to two different types of proteins. Plaques form between neurons (nerve cells) when “sticky” beta-amyloid protein pieces clump together, possibly disrupting inter-cellular communication and other aspects of cellular functioning. Neurofibrillary tangles occur when tau protein, which is normally found within neurons, accumulates in abnormally high amounts with likewise detrimental effects on cellular functioning.
Current Alzheimer’s treatments have targeted either plaques or tangles, but not both. However, according to the study authors, there’s strong evidence of a “synergistic” interaction between the two proteins that’s driving neurodegeneration. The Alzheimer’s vaccine is novel in that it targets both types of proteins.
Alzheimer’s disease is the leading cause of age-related dementia, affecting 5.7 million Americans and their loved ones at an annual cost to the nation of $227 billion. Alzheimer’s is a terminal illness marked by seven stages of progressive decline across multiple areas of functioning including reasoning, memory, communication, social skills and ultimately in later stages basic bodily functions as well.
When choosing a nursing home for a loved one with a neurodegenerative disease, it is important to be able to identify signs, both bad and good, which may indicate whether the home is a good fit or not. For more information about finding the right home, visit the National Association of Nursing Home Attorneys’ Selecting a Nursing Home Page.