A novel vaccine that targets inflamed brain cells linked to Alzheimer's disease may hold the key to potentially preventing or altering the course of the disease, a new study has shown.

According to the preliminary research presented at the American Heart Association, the vaccine, which targets a protein involved in the most common cause of dementia, helped eliminate toxic cells in mice with the condition.

The researchers at Juntendo University Graduate School of Medicine in Japan developed a vaccine to eliminate senescent cells expressing senescence-associated glycoprotein (SAGP) -- a senolytic vaccine that improved various age-related diseases, including atherosclerosis and Type 2 diabetes in mice.

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Another study discovered that SAGPs are highly expressed in glial cells in Alzheimer's patients.

Based on the findings of these studies, the researchers tested this vaccine in mice to treat Alzheimer's disease by targeting SAGP-overexpressed cells.

"Alzheimer's disease now accounts for 50 to 70 per cent of dementia patients worldwide. Our study's novel vaccine test in mice points to a potential way to prevent or modify the disease. The future challenge will be to achieve similar results in humans," said lead study author Chieh-Lun Hsiao, PhD, at Juntendo University Graduate School of Medicine.

After vaccination, the mice had fewer amyloid plaques and less inflammation in brain tissue and showed improvement in behaviour and awareness.

A behaviour test (maze-type device) on the mice at six months old revealed that those that received the SAGP vaccine responded significantly better to their environment than those who received the placebo vaccine.

The SAGP-vaccinated mice tended to behave like normal healthy mice and exhibited more awareness of their surroundings, the study showed.

Alzheimer's disease
Alzheimer's disease.IANS

"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 behaviour of these mice for the better," Hsiao said.

According to the researchers, previous research suggested that the SAGP protein is highly elevated in microglia, which means that microglia are very important cells to target in Alzheimer's disease.

(With inputs from IANS)