London: Scientists claim to have moved a step closer to developing a vaccine against Alzheimer`s, after they discovered a way to identify which proteins in the brain mutate and cause memory loss.
A team at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston claims the vaccine could be used to treat Alzheimer`s disease or even prevent the most common form of dementia from taking hold in the first place by giving it to patients in the early stages of the illness.
In fact, the scientists claim to have already developed new antibodies to both diagnose and treat Alzheimer`s, the `Daily Express` reported.
These target Alzheimer`s-causing protein of a type known as tau and raise the possibility of an immunisation jab given at an early stage of the disease. Normally, tau protein is a hard-working participant in memory and brain functioning.
But in Alzheimer`s and other neuro-degenerative diseases, it not only stops playing a productive role in brain health, it becomes a misshapen attacker that destroys brain cells.
Dr Kun Ping Lu, one of the scientists, said: "Since Alzheimer`s disease takes at least a decade to develop, the major challenge to halt memory loss is to identify the initial period when the tau protein is transformed from `good guy` to `bad guy`.
"By developing an innovative approach to making antibodies, we have uncovered a new strategy to specifically remove disease-causing tau, while leaving healthy tau intact to carry out its important responsibilities."
The research now raises the possibility that antibodies and vaccines could be developed which target only the disease- causing tau, say the scientists.
Dr Lu said: "An immunisation strategy that targets only the disease-causing twisted tau might enable diagnosis and treatment of memory loss at an early stage, when therapies are most likely to be effective.
"Early diagnosis of Alzheimer`s patients before the onset of severe memory loss could offer doctors a much better chance of halting or even preventing this costly and devastating disease."
The findings are published in the `Cell` journal.