Major step toward an Alzheimer's vaccine

January 15, 2013

A team of researchers from Université Laval, CHU de Québec, and pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has discovered a way to stimulate the brain's natural defense mechanisms in people with Alzheimer's disease. This major breakthrough, details of which are presented today in an early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), opens the door to the development of a treatment for Alzheimer's disease and a vaccine to prevent the illness.

One of the main characteristics of Alzheimer's disease is the production in the brain of a toxic molecule known as amyloid beta. , the nervous system's defenders, are unable to eliminate this substance, which forms deposits called .

The team led by Dr. Serge Rivest, professor at Université Laval's Faculty of Medicine and researcher at the CHU de Québec research center, identified a molecule that stimulates the activity of the brain's . The molecule, known as MPL (monophosphoryl lipid A), has been used extensively as a by GSK for many years, and its safety is well established.

In mice with Alzheimer's symptoms, weekly injections of MPL over a twelve-week period eliminated up to 80% of senile plaques. In addition, tests measuring the mice's ability to learn new tasks showed significant improvement in cognitive function over the same period.

The researchers see two potential uses for MPL. It could be administered by intramuscular injection to people with Alzheimer's disease to slow the progression of the illness. It could also be incorporated into a vaccine designed to stimulate the production of antibodies against amyloid beta. "The vaccine could be given to people who already have the disease to stimulate their ," said Serge Rivest. "It could also be administered as a preventive measure to people with risk factors for Alzheimer's disease."

"When our team started working on Alzheimer's disease a decade ago, our goal was to develop better treatment for Alzheimer's patients," explained Professor Rivest. "With the discovery announced today, I think we're close to our objective."

Explore further: Road block as a new strategy for the treatment of Alzheimer's

Related Stories

Road block as a new strategy for the treatment of Alzheimer's

August 22, 2011

Blocking a transport pathway through the brain cells offers new prospects to prevent the development of Alzheimer's. Wim Annaert and colleagues of VIB and K.U. Leuven discovered that two main agents involved in the inception ...

Alzheimer's vaccine cures memory of mice

December 9, 2011

(Medical Xpress) -- A vaccine that slows the progression of Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia has been developed by researchers at the University of Sydney's Brain and Mind Research Institute (BMRI).

Recommended for you

Does fungus cause Alzheimer's?

October 15, 2015

Traces of fungus have been discovered in the brains of Alzheimer's sufferers, researchers said Thursday, relaunching the question: might the disease be caused by an infectious microbe?


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.