AUGUSTA, Ga. An accomplice to the protein that causes plaque buildup in Alzheimer's disease is the focus of a potential new treatment, according to research by a Georgia Health Sciences University graduate student.
In Alzheimer's, the amyloid protein can accumulate in the brain instead of being eliminated by the body's natural defenses, nestling between the neurons and forming impassable plaques.
Amyloid and the way it gets there could be targets for a new vaccine.
"RAGE, or receptor for advanced glycation endproducts, proteins bind to amyloid and transport it into the brain," said Scott Webster, a fifth-year graduate student who is studying the disease in the lab of Dr. Alvin Terry, Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology. Research has shown that RAGE may also contribute to the inflammation and damage that amyloid causes to the brain's nerve cells.
Webster is researching a vaccine that targets RAGE and amyloid by using the body's own immune system to protect against their over-production and eventual build-up. His work has earned him the 2011 Darrell W. Brann Scholarship in Neuroscience, a $1,000 award honoring an outstanding graduate student on campus working in neuroscience.
"Unfortunately, all of the vaccines for Alzheimer's that have been through clinical trials have failed," he said. "Part of the reason why could be that they're just not comprehensive enough. Most only target amyloid. Our hope is that by taking a more encompassing approach, we will be more effective. So far, that's exactly what we're seeing in our experiments."
Other vaccines also have multiple side effects, including swelling of the brain. Webster hopes that targeting the RAGE protein and changing how the vaccine is administered will minimize inflammatory side effects.
Another benefit is that the vaccine can be administered orally, since it does not require an adjuvant, which is added to vaccines to enhance the immune r
|Contact: Jennifer Scott|
Georgia Health Sciences University