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2007 Grant - Ghochikyan
Testing of Alzheimer's Disease DNA Vaccine: Protective Vaccination Versus Therapeutic
Anahit Ghochikyan, Ph.D.
Institute for Molecular Medicine
Huntington Beach, California
2007 Investigator-Initiated Research Grant
One of the hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease is the accumulation in the brain of beta-amyloid, a tiny protein fragment suspected of disrupting cell-cell communication and damaging neurons. One promising therapeutic strategy for treating Alzheimer's is to use vaccination to rid the brain of this protein fragment. However, recent clinical trials of a beta-amyloid vaccine had to be prematurely terminated because some participants developed encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain.
Researchers are now modifying their vaccination approach so that it elicits a different type of immune response, one that does not lead to inflammation. Anahit Ghochikyan, Ph.D., and colleagues have developed a new type of beta-amyloid antigen that does not activate the immune cells that cause an inflammatory response. However, instead of administering this antigen as a protein, it is coded by DNA. Once injected, that DNA makes the antigen, which then stimulates the immune system and generates the appropriate antibodies that bind and help remove beta-amyloid.
Ghochikyan and colleagues plan to test and optimize this vaccination system. Using mice, they will test various ways of delivering the vaccine. Once they have found a delivery method that elicits the best immune response, they will then test the vaccine in mouse models of Alzheimer's disease. Eventually, the researchers hope to test the vaccine in other animal models before moving to clinical trials with people who have Alzheimer's.