UT Southwestern researchers have found a new DNA vaccine that helps protect against toxic proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease. According to the medical center’s findings, when the vaccine is injected, it delivers an immune response producing antibodies protecting susceptibility to toxic protein development without triggering severe brain swelling.
Two studies from UT Southwestern’s Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute showed in animals how vaccines containing DNA of the toxic Alzheimer’s disease-related protein, named beta-amyloid, elicits a different immune response that may be safe for humans. Dr. Roger Rosenberg, professor of physiology, neurology, and neurotherapeutics at UT Southwestern and lead researcher on this study, stated earlier research showed antibodies significantly reduced amyloid protein buildup in the brain, but there was a need for a safe way to execute the procedure. While an experimental vaccine was developed in the early 2000s, testing in humans showed brain swelling results.
Thus, Rosenberg sparked an idea to DNA-code for the amyloid protein and inject the vaccine into the skin rather than straight into the muscle. As a result, the injected skin cells make the amyloid protein, and the body responds, immediately producing antibodies to prevent its buildup. The buildup of the antibodies also prevents triggering brain swelling in neurons.
According to UT Southwestern, the research is notable since it shows “a DNA vaccine can be effective and safe in two large mammals—most other vaccines only produced an immune response in mice but not large mammals.” Rosenberg said in a statement that “we believe this kind of immune response has a high probability of being safe in humans and also [is] effective to make high levels of antibody.”
The vaccine is currently on-track to be tested further by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It is also on a shortlist of promising antibody treatments that may determine whether the amyloid protein is a vital target for preventing or curing Alzheimer’s.