Gene vaccine for Alzheimer's disease shows promising results

DALLAS Dec. 13, 2004 UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas researchers have found a way of stimulating the immune systems of mice to fight against amyloid proteins that cause the devastating plaques that are characteristic of Alzheimer's disease.

For years scientists have examined the possibility of using a protein-based vaccine to slow the progression of the disease in its early stages. UT Southwestern researchers have created a gene-based vaccine aimed at stimulating the immune systems of mice to potentially fight off plaque-causing amyloid protein in the brain.

Their findings appear in today's issue of the Archives of Neurology.

"Previous Alzheimer's vaccines were protein-based," said Dr. Baoxi Qu, the study's lead author and assistant professor in the Center for Biomedical Inventions and internal medicine. "We wanted to try a DNA-based genetic vaccine instead to see if we could enhance the immune response."

Although prior studies of amyloid protein vaccination had shown some slowing in the plaque buildup, negative side effects also occurred in a handful of patients. Some had autoimmune responses that caused encephalitis.

The key in the UT Southwestern study was finding another way to vaccinate patients without stimulating the body's own immune cytotoxic T cells, said Dr. Roger Rosenberg, a study author and director of the Alzheimer's Disease Center.

"This dilemma was discussed with my colleagues, and we decided to try vaccination with an amyloid gene, rather than the amyloid protein vaccine," said Dr. Rosenberg.

The UT Southwestern researchers vaccinated mice with a "gene gun." The gene gun and gene-vaccination technologies were invented by Dr. Stephen Albert Johnston, director of the Center for Biomedical Inventions and senior author of the latest study.

"We have been developing ways to use gene-immunization to manipulate the immune response," Dr. Johnston said. "This study was

Contact: Katherine Morales
UT Southwestern Medical Center

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