Innovative Therapies Show Promise for Alzheimer's Disease

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Alzheimer Vaccine

The latest approach to an Alzheimer vaccine turns a type of herpes virus into a harmless shell to deliver genetically engineered precision payloads to the immune system, Howard J. Federoff, M.D., Ph.D., reported at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference on Prevention of Dementia.

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Like AN-1792, the first Alzheimer vaccine to reach clinical trials, the herpes virus vehicle targets beta-amyloid, a protein fragment suspected of jamming signals among brain cells and eventually killing them. By tweaking the virus payload to fine-tune the immune response, the researchers hope to develop a formula that won't trigger the brain inflammation that sidetracked AN-1792.

Federoff's presentation detailed his team's latest results testing two different formulas in mice genetically engineered to produce human beta-amyloid. Animals vaccinated with a form based only on beta-amyloid developed brain inflammation, and many died. But mice receiving another form, which fused beta-amyloid to part of the tetanus toxin molecule, experienced a different type of immune response and no brain inflammation. They also had fewer brain deposits of beta-amyloid than these mice usually develop as they age.

Federoff, senior associate dean for basic research at the University of Rochester, and colleague William J. Bowers, Ph.D., have received a $1.25 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for work on this technique. The team is also working on vaccines for AIDS, Parkinson's disease and cancers of the liver, pancreas and blood.

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