Alzheimer’s disease is expected to affect 14 million Americans by the year 2050, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. While deaths from heart disease have plummeted 11 percent from 2000 to 2015, deaths from Alzheimer’s increased 123 percent during that same time period. According to the Association, 1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer’s.
The dreaded, incurable disease kills people more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. That’s why experts were excited when researchers recently announced a potentially effective vaccine for Alzheimer’s. It was developed by a team at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and touted to be able to slash the number of people who are affected by the disease by half.
The scientists say the breakthrough vaccine works by targeting two proteins commonly found in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease: beta-amyloid and tau.
According to Men’s Health, people with Alzheimer’s, a form of dementia, have a buildup of these proteins which prevents the brain from functioning normally. The new study was conducted in mice and showed that the vaccine could reduce beta-amyloid proteins by up to 40 percent and tau up to 50 percent.
According to a statement released by the university, the vaccine could delay the onset of Alzheimer’s by five years and reduce the number of people impacted by half.
“This study is the culmination of a decade of research that has repeatedly demonstrated that this vaccine can effectively and safely target in animal models what we think may cause Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Richard Rosenberg, study co-author and professor of Neurology at UT Southwestern Medical Center. “I believe we’re getting close to testing this therapy in people.”
Other experts, however, are more cautious about the potential of this vaccine. Dr. Thomas Wisniewski, director of NYU Langone Health’s Center for Cognitive Neurology tells Men’s Health that it’s too early to get your hopes up, although the findings are promising.
“The potential human applicability is quite a leap away,” he says. Wisniewski believes that the vaccine should be tested in monkeys to ensure its safety before trying it out on humans. At best, the vaccine wouldn’t be sold on the market for at least 10 years, he says.
He also points out that there are many new Alzheimer’s treatments being explored. If just one pans out, it could save heartbreak for millions of Americans who struggle with every day functioning due to the devastating effects of the disease. At present, over 5 million people in the United States suffers from Alzheimer’s. The National Institute of Health increased their yearly budget for Alzheimer’s to $2.3 billion, so hopefully we will have a cure on the horizon.