A powerful vaccine which can stop Alzheimer’s disease in its tracks has been developed by scientists.
The jab, called CAD106, is designed to trigger the body’s immune defence against deposits that are found in the brains of Alzheimer’s victims.
Researchers found that 80 per cent of the patients developed their own protective antibodies without suffering any side-effects over the three years of the study.
They believe that this suggests CAD106 is suitable for patients with mild to moderate versions of the disease and say it could prove to be the breakthrough in the search for a cure.
According to the World Health Organisation, dementia is currently the fastest growing global health epidemic. In the UK alone, 820,000 people have a form of dementia with over half suffering from Alzheimer’s.
There is currently no effective treatment and the figure is set to rise to a million in less than 10 years.
Dr Anne Corbett, research manager at the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “Research like this is essential to develop treatments and a cure.
“The Prime Minister promised to double investment into dementia research. We must ensure this money is used to make the biggest difference possible.”
The first human vaccination study, almost a decade ago, revealed too many adverse reactions and was discontinued.
Although the exact cause of the disease is unknown, the main theory is that amyloid precursor protein, a protein in the outer membrane of nerve cells, forms a harmful substance called beta-amyloid, which accumulates as plaques and kills brain cells, instead of being broken down.
This latest study, published in the journal Lancet Neurology, shows it is possible to stop this toxic accumulation, halting the progress of the disease.
The study was carried out by Professor Bengt Winblad at Karolinska Institute in Sweden and leading neurologists in the Swedish Brain Power network.
The authors concluded: “The favourable safety and tolerability results and the absence of any autoimmune reactions, together with the acceptable antibody responder rate in this study population, lends support to active beta-amyloid immunotherapy with CAD106 as a promising option in the treatment of mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease.”
In an accompanying article, Thomas Wisniewski of the New York School of Medicine, wrote: “Development of an immunotherapy that can delay Alzheimer’s disease onset by five years would reduce the prevalence of the disease by half.
“This new vaccine comes as a promising addition to what will probably be a long road to the ultimate successful immunotherapy.”
Dr Simon Ridley, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “This safety trial is an important first step. Now comes the real test to discover if the treatment is effective at fighting Alzheimer’s.
“It will be important that this vaccine is tested in follow-up studies. Half a million people in the UK are living with Alzheimer’s disease and we urgently need treatments that offer hope.”