If you have a family member or know someone afflicted with Alzheimer's disease, then you most probably are aware of how devastating the condition is. Alzheimer's is a progressive disease, which means that it gradually gets worse as the individual gets older. In its earliest stages, the symptoms are manageable, however, as it progresses to the later stages, it becomes extremely debilitating and individuals start to forget how to perform the most basic functions (i.e eating and using the bathroom).
Alzheimer's is currently the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States, and no cure, vaccine, nor treatment exists for it.
The disease, despite being recognized by scientists for decades now, is still not fully understood. Mental deterioration in afflicted patients is thought to be caused by the accumulation of a toxic protein called tau and the accumulation of amyloid plaques in the brain. At low levels, this protein is beneficial, however, when increased, it causes the unraveling of neurons and subsequently the formation of neurofibrillary tangles. These neurons are essential for normal brain function, and therefore the destruction of them causes a significant decrease in mental capacity.
As an individual with an uncle diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, I have witnessed firsthand how it completely changed his personality and behavior. He went from a fun-loving guy to someone who couldn't recognize himself anymore. It bewildered me when he made recurrent trips to a mirror in my house, and I later realized it was because he kept forgetting who he was.
In my opinion, Alzheimer's is one of the most crippling conditions. It renders individuals helpless and vulnerable, and the majority of them are reliant on another individual to just get through their daily lives.
This new vaccine named UB 311 works by triggering an antibody response to the plaques, which initiates clearance of them while also preventing inflammation. Studies have been conducted in primates like baboons, and clinical trials have also begun in human patients diagnosed with Alzheimer's.
Phase 1 of the trial demonstrated long-term effectiveness, with minor side effects like swelling of the injection site and agitation. Phase 2 is planned to be conducted in order to determine the safety of the antibodies produced by the vaccine, in addition to closely studying any effects on personality, memory, and behavior.
For individuals that have family members diagnosed with Alzheimer's and therefore are susceptible to contracting the condition, this vaccine is incredibly promising. It can help prevent or at least delay the disease and therefore save individuals from something so debilitating. It may have taken many years, but science finally has a lead on Alzheimer's and for the thousands of Americans that pass away from the condition every year, it may just save their lives.