Fort Lauderdale, Fla. A Florida neurology clinic next week will begin enrolling about 100 people with mild to moderate stages of Alzheimer's disease to test whether a vaccine called AN-1792 can protect human brains the way it worked in mice.
The vaccine is one of several new approaches spawned by an intensive research push during the 1990s, dubbed the Decade of the Brain by the first President Bush, to find cures for Alzheimer's and other brain diseases.
Alzheimer's is a progressive disease that can rob people of their ability to remember things as ingrained as their spouse's name.
The exact cause of the disease is still being debated, but scientists agree that the brain is damaged when a normal brain protein, amyloid beta, gets off track and begins clumping together in sticky plaques that destroy healthy neurons and other brain tissue.
The vaccine is derived from snippets of the amyloid protein. The hope is that the vaccine will cause the patient's immune system to make antibodies that will seek out the plaques and remove them from the body.
When given to juvenile mice bred to develop the plaques, the vaccine prevented them from forming. In older mice given the vaccine after the plaques began to accumulate, the vaccine seemed to reverse the disease, restoring the mental abilities of the mice, said Dr. Larry Eisner, who will lead the vaccine trial at Baumel-Eisner Neuromedical Institute's offices in Boca Raton, Tamarac and Miami Beach, Fla.
"Nothing would make me happier than for this to put us out of the business of Alzheimer's research," Eisner said.