A team from Japan’s Juntendo University suggest that their latest vaccine, “SAGP”, may revolutionise treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Presenting at the American Heart Association’s Basic Cardiovascular Sciences Scientific Sessions 2023, the researchers hope to alleviate the suffering of the millions who suffer from the disease. The vaccine has recently been tested in mice presenting symptoms like those of Alzheimer’s.  

Alzheimer’s disease 

The Alzheimer’s Association suggests that 55 million people worldwide are suffering from Alzheimer’s and other dementias. The US National Institute on Ageing indicates that more than 6 million of these are American, most of them over the age of 65.  

“Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks.”  

It is ranked as the seventh leading cause of death in the US and is the most common cause of dementia in older adults. The “complex brain changes” that are associated with Alzheimer’s can begin around a decade before symptoms appear. In the early stages, toxic changes take place, such as abnormal buildups of proteins that form amyloid plaques and tau tangles. Neurons become unhealthy, lose connections, and die. Further changes are believed to contribute to Alzheimer’s.  

SAGP 

Previous research led to the development of SAGP, a vaccine to eliminate senescent cells expressing senescence-associated glycoprotein (SAGP). This is a senolytic vaccine and has already demonstrated improvements in other age-related diseases in mice. Studies into the role of SAGP indicate that they “would become the novel cellular senescence and/or atherosclerotic disease marker”. They are highly expressed in glial cells in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, which further encouraged the use of this vaccine to target SAGP-overexpressed cells as an Alzheimer’s treatment.  

In study 

In their most recent work, the team created a disease mouse model that mimics the human brain and simulates an amyloid-beta-induced Alzheimer’s disease pathology. Medical Xpress suggests that “people in the late stage of Alzheimer’s lack anxiety”, an indication of lack of awareness. The mice who received the vaccine at two and four months old demonstrated anxiety, becoming more cautious and aware of things around them. In a behaviour test the mice that received the SAGP vaccine responded better to their environment, behaving more like healthy mice than the mice that received the control vaccine. Furthermore, several inflammatory biomarkers of disease were reduced.  

For humans 

Post-doctoral fellow Dr Chief-Lun Hsiao commented that the 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. If the vaccine could prove to be successful in humans, it would be a big step forward towards delaying disease progression or even prevention of this disease.” 

The difference between this research and earlier studies is that, not only have the team been able to reduce amyloid plaque deposits and inflammatory factors, but the SAGP vaccine “also altered the behaviour of these mice for the better”.  

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