As of now, a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease does not exist, but researchers at the University of New Mexico believe they have found a way to prevent it.
“I really wanted to take this as a challenge to see if we could develop any sort of treatment,” says researcher Kiran Bhaskar.
Bhaskar has been passionate about studying Alzheimer’s Disease for the last decade. As an associate professor for UNM’s Health and Sciences Department, he says the search for a cure started with an idea in 2013. “I would say it took about five years or so to get from where the idea generated and get the fully functioning working vaccine,” he says.
Bhaskar and his team started to test the vaccine on mice. “We used a group of mice that have Alzheimer’s Disease, and we injected them over a series of injections,” says Nicole Maphis.
PhD student Nicole Maphis says the vaccine was created to target a specific protein that’s commonly found in the brain of patients with Alzheimer’s. “What we chose to pursue was a specific region of tau, as you saw pathological tau the red structures, that are common in Alzheimers Disease. We wanted to make a vaccine against that,” says Maphis.
Maphis was pleased to see the results. “These antibodies seem to have cleared pathological tau. Pathological tau is one of the components of these tangles that we find in the brains of patients with Alzheimers Disease,” she says.
The mice were then given a series of maze-like tests. The mice that received the vaccine performed a lot better than those that hadn’t.
Despite that, Maphis and Bhaskar say this isn’t a complete success just yet. Being able to get the vaccine to people will not only take a few more years, but can cost up to a billion dollars. “We got to make sure that we have a clinical version of the vaccine so that we can test in people,” Bhaskar says.
In order to test just a small group would cost the Health Sciences Department $2 million. Right now, Maphis and Bhaskar are looking for partnerships to help them get their goal of getting a clinical grade vaccine.
Once they develop a vaccine that’s safe for humans, they will have to submit it to the FDA for approval. That might take another five years.