Alzheimer’s Vaccine?

They're working on it.

The new vaccine targets genes responsible for the overproduction of amyloid-beta peptides, small proteins that form plaques in the brain. Many researchers believe the accumulation of these plaques is the root cause of Alzheimer's disease, although this theory is not universally accepted….

Not all Alzheimer's disease vaccines in development are antibody-based. In 2005, researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston released results of a study in which mice were treated with a nasal-spray vaccine containing Protollin and glatiramer acetate, medications that have been approved to treat conditions such as multiple sclerosis. The vaccine activates microglial cells, which gobble up amyloid-beta plaques. The Boston team found the vaccine reduced plaque accumulation in mice by 73 percent and did not cause encephalitis.

"Its mechanisms of action are different than those of our DNA vaccines," Matsumoto said. "However, in our unpublished data, we also observed the similar microglial activation after our DNA vaccinations. So the final step — amyloid-beta reduction — may be identical between this vaccine and our vaccines."

Dr. Sam Gandy, chairman of the Alzheimer's Association's Medical and Scientific Advisory Council, said, "Any of these vaccines could prove safe and effective. But we are years away from seeing them widely used in clinical practice — but perhaps as few as three years away."

Three years is forever if someone you love has this disease. But it's better than, say, 20 years or however long most drugs take to reach the market.

The nasal spray seems like a good idea and a combination of the two treatments might be able to prevent or undo a lot of the damage done. I'd love it if this worked or even if it just helped in combination with other therapies.

Question: What would this good news do to our economy as a whole? Let's say for sake of discussion that a course of treatment reversed the disease back to maybe 2% blockage and you would plan on getting the treatment every 20 years over the age of 40. Would this decrease the current level of medical spending or would it have a net increase as we learn how to replace organs and body parts, treat other conditions that come with aging etc? Don't get me wrong. Avoiding Alzheimer's is worth the cost to everyone affected by it, families of the aging included. Just curious what the price tag, plus tax, would be.

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