Prospective Alzheimer's vax homes in on amyloid delivery

Amyloid proteins are widely associated with Alzheimer's disease: the naturally-occuring protein gathers in the brain as plaque, clogging up neural functions. A graduate student at Georgia Health Sciences University has researched a potential vaccine that would target not only the plaque build-up, but the mechanism funneling amyloid into the brain as well.

"Unfortunately, all of the vaccines for Alzheimer's that have been through clinical trials have failed," said Scott Webster, a fifth-year grad student. "Part of the reason why could be that they're just not comprehensive enough. Most only target amyloid. Our hope is that by taking a more encompassing approach, we will be more effective. So far, that's exactly what we're seeing in our experiments."

The protein is moved to the brain by RAGE, or receptor for advanced glycation end products, Webster says. His vaccine candidate, which can be taken orally without an adjuvant, targets RAGE and the amyloid plaque in an attempt to quash overproduction of the protein. It harnesses the body's immune system via the digestive tract, which Webster hopes will eliminate the inflammation that has sidetracked previous Alzheimer's vaccines.

"We need to move on to larger animal studies," he said in a release. "We have a lot we still don't know about the vaccine itself. For example, we know that amyloid and RAGE bind together, but we don't know why the binding creates such a stable complex. We have these end points, but we still don't know some of the basic science that needs to be known so that we can push ahead."

- read the release