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      Israeli Researcher Closes in on Alzheimer's Vaccine

      Israeli researchers are closing in on a vaccine to prevent the development of Alzheimer's disease.
      By Hana Levi Julian
      First Publish: 9/29/2009, 2:08 PM

      Israel news photo

      An Israeli researcher is closing in on a vaccine to prevent the development of Alzheimer's disease, one of the most devastating forms of dementia.

      Dr. Alon Monsonego, a researcher in the Shraga Segal Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Be'er Sheva and in the National Institute for Biotechnology in the Negev, innoculated mice with human genes carrying Alzheimer's disease.

      He and his colleagues found that the mice "were able to reduce plaques of beta-peptides, as well as inflammations and neuronal damage associated with the disease."

      The study, conducted together with British and U.S. researchers, was aimed at creating a vaccine that would strengthen the immune system to prevent subsequent development of Alzheimer's in people with a genetic predisposition to the disease.

      Funded in part by the Israel Science Foundation, the Alzheimer's Association, New York real estate developer Leonard Litwin, and the Aaron Gural family, the findings of the study were published in the September issue of the Journal of Immunology.

      Monsonego determined through using the mouse model that introducing A-beta (amyloid-beta) into the brain triggers a natural immune response which can be detected in humans. "Stimulating an immune response to A-beta in these humanized mice not only resulted in a highly efficient clearance of A-beta (plaque) from the brain, but also in a markedly reduced inflammatory reaction," he said. The team was also able to predict that the characteristics of the immune response in mice were the same as in the human subjects, he added.

      The study is particularly important because it forms the basis for developing an individualized treatment approach to the disease, Monsonego pointed out, "since different populations will respond differently to a vaccine based on their genetic background." He added that more research will be needed to ensure the safety and efficacy of the model before the vaccine can be marketed.

      Alzheimer's disease is expected to affect approximately 36 million adults in 2010, according to a report released Monday by Alzheimer's Disease International, an umbrella organization covering Alzheimer's groups around the world. The statistic is literally one-third higher than it was in 2005. In 2003, approximately 8 million adults were estimated to be living with Alzheimer's disease.

      The organization added that it is predicting the incidence of Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia  will continue to skyrocket over the next few decades.

      Israeli Company Receives Patent on Alzheimer's Vaccine
      This is not the first attempt at developing a vaccine against Alzheimer's disease. In November 2003, the Israeli Mindset Bio-Pharmaceuticals company received a patent for the first vaccine against Alzheimer's disease, one year after the Elan Corporation had developed a vaccine, only to find that adverse side effects would make the model impractical.

      Mindset announced that it was working on strategies to address the safety issues found during trials of previous attempts by Elan and Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories in their previous trials. Mindset CEO Daniel Chain said the post-trial analysis of the data from the Elan clinical trials had showed that it had been effective, and said his company would continue to work towards developing a safer model.

      The Elan Corporation did not abandon its own efforts, however. In July 2009, the New Jersey-based Johnson & Johnson mega-biotech company picked up an 18 percent stake in the Irish biotech firm's efforts to develop its Alzheimer's vaccine, as well as a treatment for the disease. J&J is now set to invest nearly $1.4 billion through its Centocor division in a collaboration with Elan in the effort.