Immunotherapy, a promising new treatment of Alzheimer’s disease
Alzheimer’s disease, it slowly takes things away from the person without giving anything back. Right now there is no cure and at best we can slow the progression in some cases. Time is always a factor and no two cases are the same. However, new treatments are in the works and a new study has revealed that a single dose of an immunotherapy reverses memory problems in an animal model of Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers have been working for decades to map out how Alzheimer’s disease wields its devastating effects. Although it’s known that two molecules – tau and amyloid beta – are considered responsible for the disease’s progression, the relationship between these two proteins and resulting memory problems has remained unclear.
Brain cells depend on tau protein to form highways for the cell to get nutrients and get rid of waste. In some neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, the tau protein changes into a more toxic form referred to as an oligomer. When this happens, molecular nutrients can no longer move to where they are needed and the brain cells eventually die.
Scientists have previously shown their anti-tau oligomer immunotherapy reduced levels of tau oligomers and reversed memory deficits in an animal model of Alzheimer’s. In the current study, it came as a surprise that the immunotherapy also reduced amyloid beta oligomer levels, suggesting that the detrimental effects of amyloid beta are dependent on the presence of toxic forms of tau.
“Our findings with this immunotherapy study indicate a link between tau oligomers and amyloid beta,” said lead author and associate professor of neurology, Rakez Kayed.
“Because of this relationship, removing tau oligomers with our immunotherapy may also decrease the harmful effects amyloid beta and mitigate memory deficits.”
What sets the therapy apart from other tau immunotherapy drugs is that his targets only the toxic oligomer form of tau and leaves the normal tau alone and able to carry out its typical functions.
These findings provide strong evidence of the benefits of targeting tau oligomers with immunotherapeutic approaches as an Alzheimer’s disease treatment. Treatments that cannot come soon enough for the millions of families that have to struggle with this illness.
Castillo-Carranza, D., Guerrero-Munoz, M., Sengupta, U., Hernandez, C., Barrett, A., Dineley, K., & Kayed, R. (2015). Tau Immunotherapy Modulates Both Pathological Tau and Upstream Amyloid Pathology in an Alzheimer’s Disease Mouse Model Journal of Neuroscience, 35 (12), 4857-4868 DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4989-14.2015