NEW YORK (May 22, 2007) -- Researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College have gotten much closer to understanding how immune-based therapies can treat Alzheimer's disease -- by studying how antibodies go inside brain cells to reduce levels of Alzheimer's-linked amyloid peptides that form plaques between neurons.
"This internalization and activity of the antibody within the cell was a big surprise and something we really haven't appreciated in neurological medicine. It gives us new hope for the use of immunotherapy against Alzheimer's, while casting intriguing new light on other disease processes," says senior author Dr. Gunnar Gouras, associate professor of neurology and neuroscience at Weill Cornell Medical College and associate attending neurologist at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.
His team's study will appear as a prestigious "paper of the week" in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, and was published in the May 1 online edition of the journal.
There are currently no effective treatments to fight Alzheimer's disease, which now affects over 5 million Americans, according to the Alzheimer's Association. Scientists now project that unless new ways are found to prevent or treat the disease, the total could climb to 16 million by 2050.
For years, the idea of an immune-based vaccine therapy against Alzheimer's has been a Holy Grail of research. In fact, in the past, researchers did have some clinical success with an antibody-directed immune therapy. Those hopes were dampened somewhat after a few subjects came down with a serious, treatment-linked (but nonfatal) meningitis.
"Still, the dream has remained very much alive -- especially since we know that antibodies to the beta-amyloid plaques associated with Alzheimer's can cross the blood-brain barrier, gaining access to the brain," Dr. Gouras explains. He remains one of the leading authorities on beta-amyloid plaques
Contact: Andrew Klein
New York- Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center/Weill Cornell Medical College