Leading Edge / Winter 2003
New Hope

U of T researchers are refining an experimental Alzheimer’s vaccine


The discovery by U of T researchers of a way to refine an experimental Alzheimer’s vaccine could pave the way for a new treatment of the disease. Alzheimer’s occurs when compounds known as amyloid-beta peptides accumulate in the brain, forming plaque deposits and injuring nerve cells, which eventually causes dementia. In 2000, scientists at the Centre for Research in Neurodegenerative Diseases (CRND) at U of T published research showing how the amyloid-beta peptide vaccine blocked plaque production and reversed learning impairment. However, human trials in Europe and the U.S. were halted when some patients developed inflammation of the brain. But new U of T research demonstrating how to circumvent the inflammation in mice offers renewed hope. The study, led by JoAnne McLaurin and David Westaway, professors of laboratory medicine and pathobiology, and Prof. Peter St George-Hyslop, CRND director, found that only a segment of the vaccine produced the beneficial immune response, suggesting that a small portion would be less likely to cause inflammation in humans. “This information gives new hope for the development of a vaccine for Alzheimer’s disease,” says McLaurin.


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