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BGU Alzheimer’s Researcher Demonstrates Specific Immune Response to Vaccine

BGU Alzheimer’s Researcher Demonstrates Specific Immune Response to Vaccine

September 21, 2009

Medical Research, Press Releases

BEER-SHEVA — September, 21 2009 — A researcher who is working on a vaccine for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) has demonstrated that it is possible to test and measure specific immune responses in mice carrying human genes and to anticipate the immune response in Alzheimer’s patients.

This continuing research could one day lead to specific Alzheimer’s vaccines that reduce plaque, neuronal damage and inflammation associated with the disease.

Amyloid beta-peptide accumulates in the brain of AD patients where it appears to promote neuronal damage. In the new article published in the Journal of Immunology, BGU researcher Dr. Alon Monsonego determined that introducing A-beta into the brain triggers a natural immune response which can be detected in humans.

Importantly, the research team showed that the specificity and magnitude of this body response to A-beta depends on certain key genes of the immune system, which are highly polymorphic in the population (this means that except for identical twins, almost each of us has a different combination of genes termed “HLA alleles”).

Furthermore, this research combined humans and humanized mouse models. “We began with characterizing the genes in humans and then did the same study in mice, an unusual approach,” Monsonego explains.

“We then generated a humanized mouse model of AD, with a specific gene that was present in approximately 30 percent of our study group (HLA DR15 allele).

Conceivably, those people that have this gene could receive the same vaccine which will teach a person’s immune system to better fight the disease.”

Monsonego continues, “As in other mouse models of the disease, we show that with aging A-beta aggregates accumulate in brain areas of cognitive functions and stimulate an inflammatory reaction in the brain.

However, stimulating an immune response to A-beta in these humanized mice not only resulted in a highly efficient clearance of A-beta (plaque) from the brain, but also in a markedly reduced inflammatory reaction.

Furthermore, we were able to predict that the characteristics of immune response in mice were the same as in the humans.

“This study thus provides the basis for developing an individual-based (personalized medicine) immunotherapeutic approach to Alzheimer’s disease since different populations will respond differently to a vaccine based on their genetic background,” Monsonego explains.

“Now that we’ve proven we can anticipate the specific responses for several abundant genes in the population, further study is needed to ensure safety and efficacy in our humanized mouse model of AD.”

Dr. Monsonego, who holds the Zehava and Chezy Vered Career Development Chair for the Study of Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases, is a member of BGU’s Shraga Segal Department of Microbiology and Immunology and the National Institute for Biotechnology in the Negev.

The research is funded in part by the Israel Science Foundation, the Alzheimer Association and by the New York real estate developer Leonard Litwin and the Aaron Gural family.

“It is so rewarding to see how donors of American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev are contributing to the groundbreaking progress on discovering a viable Alzheimer’s vaccine,” states Executive Vice President Doron Krakow. “It’s another example of how BGU’s research helps people around the world.”

Dr. Alon Monsonego will be the guest speaker at a benefit for Alzheimer’s research in New York on October 28. For details, call 212-687-7721 ext. 186 or register Online.

About American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (AABGU) plays a vital role in sustaining David Ben-Gurion’s vision: creating a world-class institution of education and research in the Israeli desert, nurturing the Negev community and sharing the University’s expertise locally and around the globe. As Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) celebrates its 50th birthday this year, AABGU imagines a future that goes beyond the walls of academia. It is a future where BGU invents a new world and inspires a vision for a stronger Israel and its next generation of leaders. Together with supporters, AABGU will help the University foster excellence in teaching, research and outreach to the communities of the Negev for the next 50 years and beyond.

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