Researchers have announced the development of a vaccine that may prevent the formation of tau accumulation in the brain, in particular the tau tangles implicated in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. The news comes amid ongoing efforts to develop an effective Alzheimer’s treatment, something officials have called critical as the number of cases are projected to skyrocket over coming years.
Millions of people around the world are impacted by Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive memory disorder that results from the accumulation of a protein called tau in the brain. Tau protein accumulations can form tangles, and these tangles can then cause issues with neurons, leading to memory loss.
A number of studies have sought to tease apart the relationship between tau accumulation, Alzheimer’s disease, and lifestyle factors that may put individuals at risk of the disorder. Sleep disruption has been linked to impaired ‘cleaning’ that paves the way for tau accumulation, for example, and that may have disastrous long-term consequences for some people.
In a newly published study, researchers with the University of New Mexico detailed the development of a vaccine that may stop tau tangles from forming. That, in turn, may prevent the memory issues associated with tau tangles, resulting in something like an inoculation against Alzheimer’s.
The vaccine, which was engineered using virus-like particles, was tested on mice genetically engineered to develop the same symptoms that impact humans with Alzheimer’s disease. During the test, researchers found that vaccinated mice performed better in ‘maze-like’ tests than other mice that hadn’t been vaccinated.
The vaccinated mice had ‘significantly’ fewer tau tangles in the hippocampus and cortex regions of the brain, as well, the same areas that are eventually destroyed in human Alzheimer’s patients. The mice also developed antibodies that removed tau proteins from the brain. Unfortunately, it could takes decades to bring a vaccine approved for use with humans to the market.