Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas said a new experimental vaccine against Alzheimer's disease showed promising results during recent tests in mice and are hopeful that the vaccine will reach human trials.
In animal tests, researchers said the experimental vaccine showed it could delay the effects of degenerative brain disease.
The testing day on animals for human use is long and arduous, and many promising cures do not stand up to it. But a senior author of the research published this week in the journal Research and Alzheimer's Therapy USA Today said that if the vaccine is proven to be safe and effective during human testing, it could reduce the total number of dementia diagnoses by half.
Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia, which is the term used to describe symptoms of cognitive decline that cause memory, thinking and behavior problems.
The experimental vaccine can be a monumental breakthrough in the fight against dementia, with previous Alzheimer's vaccines causing harmful side effects, including brain inflammation. Recent tests on monkeys and rabbits have found that the vaccine works, causing the body to produce antibodies that reduce the buildup of amyloid and tau. Both proteins are typically indicative of the presence of degenerative brain disease in the body.
Doris Lambracht-Washington, a professor of neurology and neurotherapeutics at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, said USA Today She believes the vaccine can prolong people's lives and prevent the disease from spreading to the brain.
"If the onset of illness could be postponed within five years, that would be enormous for patients and their families," said Lambracht-Washington. "The number of dementia cases may fall by half."
Two abnormal structures of proteins called plaques and tangles can accumulate in the brain and break down nerve cells. The new vaccine may be able to stop this buildup of these proteins without causing autoimmune inflammation, the researchers wrote.
According to the Alzheimer's Association, the disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. About 5.7 million Americans live with Alzheimer's and researchers predict that number will rise to 14 million by 2050. Between 2000 and 2015, Alzheimer's disease-related deaths increased by 123 percent.
Update: This story has been updated to make it clearer that the experimental vaccine has only been tested on animals and that there are many tests to see if it could work in humans and be released to the public.