Article image

Medical breakthrough: New vaccine may prevent Alzheimer's disease

In the ongoing struggle against Alzheimer’s disease, which now accounts for 50 to 70% of dementia cases worldwide, scientists have found a glimmer of hope with a potential vaccine. 

Groundbreaking research was recently presented at the American Heart Association’s Basic Cardiovascular Sciences Scientific Sessions 2023 in Boston, focusing on the promising results of a novel vaccine that targets inflamed brain cells associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

This unique approach may hold the key to potentially preventing or modifying the course of the disease. 

Focus of the study

The study was carried out at the Juntendo University Graduate School of Medicine in Tokyo, where the team has previously developed vaccines to combat age-related diseases in mice. Now, they have turned their attention to Alzheimer’s, a disease that affects millions of people globally.

Previous studies at Juntendo University form the foundation of this research. Researchers there developed a vaccine to eliminate senescent cells expressing senescence-associated glycoprotein (SAGP), a senolytic vaccine that improved various age-related diseases, including atherosclerosis and Type 2 diabetes in mice. 

SAGP expression in glial cells of those with Alzheimer’s disease became a notable finding. These discoveries led to the examination of the vaccine targeting SAGP-overexpressed cells to combat Alzheimer’s disease in mice.

Lead study author Chieh-Lun Hsiao, PhD, described the importance of the findings. He stated, “Alzheimer’s disease now accounts for 50 to 70% of dementia patients worldwide. Our study’s novel vaccine test in mice points to a potential way to prevent or modify the disease.” 

“The future challenge will be to achieve similar results in humans. If the vaccine could prove to be successful in humans, it would be a big step forward towards delaying disease progression or even prevention of this disease.”

How the study was conducted 

The researchers created an Alzheimer’s disease mouse model that closely resembles the human brain’s amyloid-beta-induced Alzheimer’s disease pathology. 

The team carefully administered the SAGP vaccine to the mice, observing its efficacy in combating the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

What the researchers learned 

One intriguing discovery was the restored anxiety in vaccinated mice. In late-stage Alzheimer’s patients, anxiety typically diminishes, indicating a lack of awareness of their surroundings. 

The vaccinated mice demonstrated increased awareness, a promising sign that the disease’s effects were lessening. 

Moreover, the experts found substantial reductions in inflammatory biomarkers and amyloid deposits within the cerebral cortex region. This area of the brain is responsible for language processing, attention, and problem-solving.

Significant impacts

The vaccine’s impact on astrocyte cells and its effects on behavioral responses were significant. It led to a decrease in the size of inflammatory molecules and improved maze navigation by the mice. 

“Earlier studies using different vaccines to treat Alzheimer’s disease in mouse models have been successful in reducing amyloid plaque deposits and inflammatory factors; however, what makes our study different is that our SAGP vaccine also altered the behavior of these mice for the better,” said Hsiao.

Researchers located the SAGP protein near specialized brain cells known as microglia. These are instrumental in the immune defense of the central nervous system but can also cause brain inflammation that damages neurons and worsens cognitive decline. The research shed light on this phenomenon.

“By removing microglia that are in the activation state, the inflammation in the brain may also be controlled. A vaccine could target activated microglia and remove these toxic cells, ultimately repairing the deficits in behavior suffered in Alzheimer’s disease,” explained Hsiao.

Implications of the study

The implications of this research are profound, considering that Alzheimer’s disease affected about 3.7 million Americans ages 30 years and older in 2017, with projections reaching 9.3 million by 2060, according to the 2023 American Heart Association Statistical Update.

In conclusion, while the research is in its preliminary stages and requires further testing in human subjects, the findings present a new frontier in Alzheimer’s disease treatment. 

The innovative approach of the SAGP vaccine offers a potential pathway for prevention, delay, or even a cure for a disease that has long confounded the medical community. 

The findings may ultimately lead to a significant advancement in neuroscience, bringing hope to millions afflicted with this devastating condition.

More about Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that represents the most common form of dementia. It accounts for an estimated 60% to 80% of cases.

Characterized by cognitive impairment, memory loss, and changes in behavior, this devastating disease primarily affects older adults, although early-onset forms can occur.

Causes and risk factors

Scientists believe that a combination of genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors plays a role in Alzheimer’s disease, although its exact cause remains unknown.

The presence of certain genes, such as APOE-e4, increases the risk. Additional risk factors include advancing age, a family history of the disease, a history of head trauma, and certain lifestyle factors, like smoking and obesity.

Symptoms and progression

The first symptom of Alzheimer’s disease is usually difficulty remembering newly learned information.

As the disease progresses, symptoms expand to include confusion, mood and behavior changes, disorientation, and difficulty speaking, swallowing, and walking.

The progression of Alzheimer’s disease varies greatly among individuals. Some people live up to 20 years after initial diagnosis.


Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis is primarily based on a careful medical evaluation. These include a thorough medical history, mental status testing, a physical and neurological exam, and blood tests and brain imaging to rule out other causes of dementia-like symptoms.

Treatment and management

Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Treatments primarily focus on managing symptoms and improving quality of life.

Medications such as cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine can help manage memory and cognitive symptoms for a time. Non-drug therapies like physical activity, social engagement, and cognitive stimulation may also alleviate some symptoms and improve quality of life.

Prevention and research

While no guaranteed prevention method exists for Alzheimer’s disease, some evidence suggests that maintaining a healthy lifestyle — a balanced diet, regular physical activity, social engagement, and mentally stimulating activities — may help reduce the risk.

Current research focuses on a better understanding of the disease, identifying biomarkers for early diagnosis, and exploring new treatment strategies.

Societal impact

Alzheimer’s disease has a significant societal impact, with costs incurred for medical care, caregiving, and loss of productivity. Moreover, it imposes a substantial emotional toll on patients and their families. Awareness campaigns, support groups, and resources for patients and caregivers help address these challenges.

Alzheimer’s disease remains a critical public health issue. Ongoing research and advocacy are paramount in the quest for effective treatments and, ultimately, a cure. Despite the challenges Alzheimer’s presents, advances in understanding its pathology and progression continue to pave the way for innovative therapeutic approaches.


Check us out on EarthSnap, a free app brought to you by Eric Ralls and

News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day