Brigham and Women’s Hospital has announced it would test out the first human trial of a nasal vaccine for Alzheimer’s. It will be a small trial involving 16 people between ages 60 to 85 with symptoms of the disease. They will receive two doses of a vaccine one week apart. This is building on decades of research the indicates that stimulating the immune system can help clear out beta-amyloid plaques in the brain.
The sticky plaques are typical of Alzheimer’s disease.
They form when pieces of beta-amyloid protein build up between nerve cells, which can disrupt a person’s ability to think or recall information.
The vaccine will spray a drug known as Protollin directly into the nasal passage, with the aim of activating immune cells to remove the plaque.
While this is not a completely new idea, scientists have said it is particularly promising as an understanding of the disease has grown.
Jeffrey Cummings, a brain science professor at the University of Nevada, said: “The idea of activating immune cells is becoming more and more central to the idea of treating Alzheimer’s disease.
He also said that a nasal spray might be better at delivering Protollin to immune cells than other methods like infusion or using an inhaler.
The trial results are tipped to give scientists further insight into how to treat that disease as participants must be at an early stage of the Alzheimer’s and otherwise in good health.
But the researchers have to demonstrate that it’s safe and determine what dose to give before the nasal vaccine can advance to larger trials.
And this is not the first revolutionary Alzheimer’s trial that we have seen in recent years.
Dr Cummings said that in the last five years, new technologies like brain scans and blood tests have made the disease easier for Alzheimer’s to diagnose as well as checking how well treatments are working.
He said: “It just feels like we have turned a corner.”
It comes after 20 years of failed drug trials, with many large pharmaceutical companies scrapping plans to develop an Alzheimer’s treatment altogether.
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Alzheimer’s disease is most common in people over the age of 65 in the UK.
The risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia increases with age, affecting an estimated 1 in 14 people over the age of 65 and 1 in every 6 people over the age of 80.
But around 1 in every 20 people with Alzheimer’s disease are under the age of 65.
This is called early- or young-onset Alzheimer’s disease.