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Studying Alzheimer's Vaccine Effectiveness

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Researchers at The Ohio State University Medical Center have begun studying the effects of a vaccine in slowing the onset of Alzheimer's disease or preventing it altogether.

"Approximately five million people suffer from Alzheimer's disease and the numbers continue to increase," says Dr. Douglas Scharre, a neurologist at Ohio State's Medical Center. "The first goal is to find a way to prevent the progression of the disease. If we can't prevent it, studies have shown that delaying the onset for five years would result in a 50 percent reduction in the number of cases."

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Scharre is leading OSU Medical Center's involvement in the 18-month, multi-center study involving male and female patients between the ages of 50 and 89 who have been diagnosed with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease. The study involves the drug bapineuzumab, which is designed to bind to and remove one of the proteins, beta-amyloid, that accumulates in the brains of individuals with Alzheimer's disease.

Bapineuzumab is given in a series of infusions, delivering monoclonal antibodies directed against beta-amyloid. This approach is called "passive immunization," since the body is receiving the antibodies via the drug, rather then generating the antibodies itself.

"The early results from animal studies have been very promising, and we are now looking to see if we achieve the same outcomes with our patients," says Scharre.

Alzheimer's disease is a progressive and fatal brain disease for which there is no cure. It destroys brain cells, causing problems with memory, thinking and behavior severe enough to affect work, lifelong hobbies and social life. According to the Alzheimer's Association, as many as 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease, which is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States.