Alzheimer’s vaccine holds out hope for new treatment

New vaccine targets Alzheimer's at its roots.

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Mental health and well-being are critical aspects of a person’s overall health. Regular physical activity has been widely acknowledged as beneficial for physical health; however, its effects on mental health have gained increasing attention in recent years. This study aimed to explore the potential impact of daily exercise on mental health and well-being among individuals without a history of chronic mental health disorders.

Researchers at Juntendo University Graduate School of Medicine in Tokyo, Japan, have developed a novel vaccine targeting brain cells associated with Alzheimer’s disease, initially designed to eliminate senescent cells expressing senescence-associated glycoprotein (SAGP).

The vaccine showed promising results in mice models, with reduced amyloid plaques, brain tissue inflammation, and improved behavior and awareness, indicating a potential disease amelioration. The findings at the American Heart Association‘s Basic Cardiovascular Sciences Scientific Sessions 2023 in Boston suggest that the vaccine holds promise in preventing or modifying Alzheimer’s disease. However, further research is needed to assess its efficacy in humans. If successful, this vaccine could represent a significant advancement in delaying disease progression or even preventing Alzheimer’s in the future.

The study revealed that the SAGP vaccine had significant positive effects in mice with Alzheimer’s-like brain pathology. The vaccine reduced amyloid deposits in the cerebral cortex region responsible for language processing, attention, and problem-solving. Additionally, it decreased the size of astrocyte cells, a specific inflammatory molecule. It reduced other inflammatory biomarkers, indicating an improvement in brain inflammation.

Mice receiving the vaccine performed better in a behavior test, exhibiting more awareness of their surroundings and behaving like normal healthy mice. The SAGP protein was found to be located near microglia, which are involved in immune defense but can trigger brain inflammation in Alzheimer’s. This research offers promising insights into potentially preventing or modifying Alzheimer’s disease by targeting specific brain cells and inflammation processes.

Lead study author Chieh-Lun Hsiao, Ph.D., a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of cardiovascular biology and medicine at Juntendo University Graduate School of Medicine in Tokyo., said, “Earlier studies using different vaccines to treat Alzheimer’s disease in mouse models have been successful in reducing amyloid plaque deposits and inflammatory factors, however, what makes our study different is that our SAGP vaccine also altered the behavior of these mice for the better.

By removing microglia that are in the activation state, the inflammation in the brain may also be controlled. A vaccine could target activated microglia and remove these toxic cells, ultimately repairing the deficits in behavior suffered in Alzheimer’s disease.”

This study provides evidence supporting the notion that daily exercise can play a beneficial role in promoting mental health and well-being. Health practitioners and policymakers should consider incorporating exercise interventions as part of mental health promotion strategies, especially for individuals without chronic mental health conditions. However, further research is needed to explore the long-term effects of exercise on mental health and better understand the underlying mechanisms that drive these positive outcomes.

The research was presented at the American Heart Association’s Basic Cardiovascular Sciences Scientific Sessions 2023.

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