Boston University Medical Center is leading research to find a vaccine, and will study 250 healthy volunteers
Researchers are targeting early Alzheimer’s disease as part of an experimental vaccine to prevent the terminal condition.
Boston University Medical Center (BUSM) has joined forces with the Alzheimer’s Association to conduct a Phase 1 trial at the hospital’s McLean neuropsychiatric hospital.
The trial aims to develop a vaccination vaccine for Alzheimer’s disease, and has the aim of evaluating levels of antibodies produced in the human body when they attack the amyloid plaques that build up in the brain of people with the disease.
Researchers will study 250 healthy volunteers between the ages of 65 and 90 with two cohorts: an intervention group, which will be given the placebo vaccine.
The second cohort, also the control group, will be given the active vaccine.
Mary Anne Lamson, an assistant professor of medicine at BUSM, told The Boston Globe: “The whole purpose is to see if there is a robust immune response to encourage CD4 positive T-cells, which are the main immune system players that fight things like the [amyloid plaque].”
“Now that we know what we are targeting,” she said, “we know how best to go about it. We are happy to have the Alzheimer’s Association with us.”
The trial will also test the efficacy of the new vaccines on 60 people with mild and moderate Alzheimer’s disease.
The first trials using the active vaccine have already started. The injections are being given to volunteers with mild forms of Alzheimer’s disease over a five-month period, with results due in October.
The vaccine’s developers believe that they will have good results for an already developed vaccine for plaque related amyloid. However, for patients suffering from more aggressive forms of the disease, they will need to go back to the drawing board, Lamson said.
Despite the Boston University study being a key area of collaboration for the World Health Organization, a separate trial focused on Alzheimer’s vaccine development is also under way in Europe.
AIGAS, a European non-profit body representing not-for-profit research and development projects, said in a report in February that it is looking to fund “a large, cost-effective Alzheimer’s vaccine application study”.
The organisation hopes that funding from the two clinical trials could spur developments in Alzheimer’s vaccines.
The Alzheimer’s Association has yet to be drawn into commenting about the findings of the Boston study.
News of the trial comes as global and US donors sought to boost investment in Alzheimer’s disease research after the death of socialite and philanthropist Diane von Furstenberg earlier this month.