A new vaccine based on cucumbers could be the breakthrough that scientists are looking for to treat Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists from Dundee and Oxford universities working together have found what has been described as the ‘magic bullet’ in the fight against the neurodegenerative condition.
Trials using the jab, which contains a virus that usually affects vegetables like cucumbers, have so far brought about positive results. If the research continues to go well, and the treatment is brought to market, hundreds of thousands of people could be spared the effects of Alzheimer’s.
The protein coat of the cucumber mosaic virus has been used in the development of the vaccine. When found in nature, it can cause lumps to occur on the vegetable, but harnessing its power for medicine could see entirely different effects.
Adding it to a protein structure that is used in the tetanus jab meant that the immune system was stimulated and therefore more susceptible to the new treatment. More trials are required, but the injection could be used as a preventative measure in the future and possibly even a cure.
Alzheimer’s occurs due to the collection of beta amyloid proteins in the brain, which damage the organ and impact cognitive function. Past studies that have injected antibodies to beta amyloid into patients have been unsuccessful.
This has led to the need for research into treatments that approach the condition in an entirely different way. A prophylactic vaccine could treat Alzheimer’s before it has become clinically apparent in a patient.
Professor Martin Bachmann, of the Jenner Institute in Oxford, said: “Alzheimer’s disease usually develops in elderly people. The fact that the vaccine described here is optimised for old individuals seems therefore particularly helpful.”
Some 850,000 people in the UK are suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s is the most prevalent form of the condition, affecting 62 per cent of those diagnosed. With an ageing population, experts predict that the situation is only set to get worse over the coming decades.
Louise Walker, research communications officer at the Alzheimer’s Society, told the Daily Mail: “Alzheimer’s disease is one of the biggest health challenges facing us today. There is no way at present to stop or slow the progression of the condition.
“Therefore it is great to see researchers taking innovative approaches like this, which uses viruses to act as vaccines, to find ways to tackle the challenge.”