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October 11, 2002
Alzheimer's Vaccine Refuses to Die
The Alzheimer's vaccine idea that I've covered every so often is back in the news. Two studies coming out in Nature Medicine give it a boost. One shows that the ill-fated Elan clinical trial (which came to a screeching halt when some patients developed brain inflammation) actually did lead to antibody production against the beta-amyloid protein. The antibodies recognized various types of amyloid deposits, and crossed into the brain. (That last part is what has amazed everyone since the first animal results - antibodies aren't supposed to be big players across the blood-brain barrier.)
The other paper reports that a very similar response in rodents can be achieved using a much smaller variant of the amyloid protein. That should lower the chance of inflammatory side-effects considerably, and gives new hope to human studies. This is looking like one of the crazy ideas that just might work - stipulating, for the moment, that amyloid really is the cause of Alzheimer's. . .
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