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First Nasal Vaccine for Alzheimer’s Disease by Isabel S.

Updated: Feb 10, 2022

What is Alzheimer’s disease? How does it affect humans?

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. It is a progressive disease that damages memory and basic brain functions, worsening over time. Brain proteins are unable to function properly, causing disturbance of how neurons work. This can cause neurons to be damaged and lose connections to one another, which ultimately causes the neurons to die. In the early stages, memory loss is mild, but as this disease progresses, Azheimer’s severely affects the nervous system. Alzheimer’s is more likely to develop in older adults, affecting their everyday life, such as impacting their judgment, language, personality, and even movement.

Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in America and countless lives are impacted by this disease every year. According to the CDC “In 2020, as many as 5.8 million Americans were living with Alzheimer’s disease,” In addition to the millions of older adults being negatively impacted by this disease, their families and friends are severely affected as well.

Recently, Brigham and Women’s Hospital has introduced the First Clinical Trial of a Nasal Vaccine for Alzheimer’s disease (AD). This vaccine is intended to be given nasally to slow down and suppress the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. This trial is led by Howard L. Weiner, MD, who is the co-director of the Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases at Brigham. Weiner states that “The launch of the first human trial of a nasal vaccine for Alzheimer’s is a remarkable milestone...Over the last two decades, we’ve amassed preclinical evidence suggesting the potential of this nasal vaccine for AD. If clinical trials in humans show that the vaccine is safe and effective, this could represent a nontoxic treatment for people with Alzheimer’s, and it could also be given early to help prevent Alzheimer’s in people at risk.” These trials have been working for 20 years to create treatments and a cure for this disease but have been unsuccessful. This new trial is a step into the future!

The goal of this clinical trial is to understand and see the vaccine's safety and tolerability. How does this trial work? Sixteen people between the ages of 60 and 85 who have shown symptoms of Alzheimer’s, but are otherwise in good health, have been chosen to take part in this process. Each person will receive two doses of the vaccine one week apart through a spray going directly into the nasal passage. Research shows that stimulating the immune system can eliminate beta-amyloid plaques (protein pieces that build up together) in the brain. When these plaques form between nerve cells, they interrupt a person’s memory. These plaques are the main cause of Alzheimer’s disease and this vaccine aims to activate immune cells to eliminate the plaque.

Jeffery Cummings, who is a brain-science professor at the University of Nevada, told insider, "The idea of activating immune cells is becoming more and more central to the idea of treating Alzheimer's disease," In addition, he spoke about how a nasal vaccine could be much more effective as opposed to an infusion or inhaler. With this clinical trial on its way, is a remarkable breakthrough in medical history! Countless people who suffer from Alzheimer’s can be given this vaccine to slow the progression, giving them and their friends and family more time to enjoy life to the fullest. This vaccine is a wonderful achievement and, if this clinical trial is a success, it brings us one step closer to understanding how to treat this disease.

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