Preventive vaccine clears Alzheimer’s brain plaques in mice.

Preventive vaccine clears Alzheimer's brain plaques in mice.

New Vaccine Shows Potential for Treating Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s Disease

Scientists have long searched for an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, and recent developments in drug discovery have shown promise in clearing the amyloid plaques that are a characteristic feature of this memory-robbing condition. But what if a vaccine could provide an even better solution? A recent study conducted in Japan suggests that targeting the onset and development of Alzheimer’s disease through vaccination may be possible.

The researchers have been testing a vaccine on mice, with encouraging results. The vaccine appears to effectively lower the inflammation typically associated with Alzheimer’s, leading to substantial improvements in the mice’s overall behavior. Although the findings are preliminary and the research is ongoing, the study offers a glimmer of hope in the fight against Alzheimer’s.

Study lead author Chieh-Lun Hsiao, a postdoctoral fellow at Juntendo University Graduate School of Medicine in Tokyo, acknowledges the challenges of translating animal research into successful clinical trials in humans. However, the vaccine has specifically targeted certain cells known to express a protein called SAGP, which becomes overactive during Alzheimer’s, triggering the development of amyloid plaque deposits. By focusing on the SAGP protein, the vaccine aims to slow down or, ideally, halt the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

To test the vaccine’s efficacy, the researchers used mice genetically engineered to have a disease similar to human Alzheimer’s. At two and four months of age, all mice were inoculated with either the vaccine or a placebo. Maze tests conducted at six months of age demonstrated that the vaccinated mice performed significantly better than those that received the placebo. Additionally, the vaccinated mice exhibited signs of anxiety, which is considered a marker of mental capacity often diminished in individuals with Alzheimer’s.

Lab tests of brain tissue further supported the positive outcomes. The vaccinated mice showed notable reductions in amyloid deposits and a decrease in the size of cells associated with Alzheimer’s-related brain inflammation and excessive SAGP activity. This evidence suggests that the vaccine may have the potential to combat Alzheimer’s disease by reducing inflammation and addressing the underlying causes of the condition.

It is important to note that further research is required to understand whether the success observed in mice can be replicated in human trials. Rebecca Edelmayer, senior director of scientific engagement at the Alzheimer’s Association, affirms the potential of vaccines in preventing diseases and suggests that it might also be applicable to Alzheimer’s. However, she emphasizes the need for additional studies before moving forward with human trials.

Daniel Lackland, director of the Medical University of South Carolina’s division of translational neurosciences and population studies, agrees that while animal studies play a vital role in developing hypotheses for human research, more comprehensive investigations are necessary. Lackland notes that animal experiments often differ from human trials in their design, conduct, and analysis.

Presented at a meeting of the American Heart Association, the study by Hsiao and her colleagues offers a promising starting point, but it remains preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal. This vaccine research brings hope to the millions of people affected by Alzheimer’s disease and their loved ones, fueling the quest for innovative treatments.


  • Chieh-Lun Hsiao, PhD, postdoctoral fellow, Department of Cardiovascular Biology and Medicine, Juntendo University School of Medicine, Tokyo
  • Rebecca Edelmayer, PhD, senior director, scientific engagement, Alzheimer’s Association
  • Daniel Lackland, DrPH, professor and director, Division of Translational Neurosciences and Population Studies, Department of Neurology, director, Masters of Science in Clinical Research Program, Medical University of South Carolina, and past president, World Hypertension League
  • Presentation at the American Heart Association meeting, August 2, 2023, Boston
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