james debate
james debate

Monday 18 August 2008

In the August 15 Journal of Biological Chemistry, Robert Friedland and colleagues have published studies demonstrating that a virus which commonly infects potatoes may offer a novel approach to developing any future vaccine for Alzheimer's.

There have been previous, promising, attempts to create antibodies to the amyloid beta protein, a key protein in Alzheimer's disease. Studies in mice have shown that vaccinations with the protein can slow disease onset and improve cognitive abilities.

There have been a few early human trials which have shown themselves to be equally promising, resulting in promoted plaque destruction in patients, but the treatment was deemed to carry too much of a risk of an autoimmune reaction and has been halted.

It has been proposed that one answer to this problem would be to find a protein very similar in structure to the human version but not similar enough to provoke such a reaction, in much the same fashion as the smallpox virus is developed.

Now it has been shown that vaccines developed for a similar protein in Potato virus can also be effective against amyloid beta plaques in Alzheimer's patients. This virus is a fairly common virus that poses no threat to humans.

While future tests are required to show just how effective such treatment can be, this is still a highly promising lead in treatment of Alzheimer's.

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