19 July 2016

Dementia treatment breakthrough on the horizon

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It will come as no surprise to hear that dementia is one of the most significant health concerns in Australia. There are currently over 342 000 Australians living with dementia and it is the second leading cause of death. Dementia researchers and advocacy groups work tirelessly to understand its causes, and deliver hope to people living with dementia and their families.

While it can feel like an endlessly battle, a significant breakthrough may be just around the corner. Researchers from Flinder’s University in South Australia along with US counterparts at the Institute of Molecular Medicine and University of California have worked to develop a vaccine designed to target proteins in the brain that block neurons, according to the ABC.

Flinders University medicine professor Nikolai Petrovsky explained how these proteins impact the brain over time.

"[The proteins are] a bit like the car in your driveway," Petrovsky told 891 ABC.

"You need to remove them from the brain otherwise if you left broken down cars in your driveway eventually you couldn't get out. Essentially that's what happens in people who get Alzheimer's or dementia is they have lots of these broken down proteins in the brain.

"Essentially what we have designed is a vaccine that makes the immune system produce antibodies and those antibodies act like tow trucks so they come to your driveway, they latch on to the breakdown protein or car and they pull it out of the driveway,” Petrovsky said.

Petrovsky told The Advertiser the vaccine could be available in three to five years depending on the outcome of clinical trials.

“If we are successful in clinical trials, in three to five years we could be well on the way to one of the most important developments in recent medical history,” he said.

This isn’t the first time vaccines have been linked to fighting dementia in Alzheimer’s. 

Earlier this year, The Times reported that the flu vaccine can lower the risk of dementia in heart patients.

According to The Times, “More than half a million people in the UK live with heart failure, which will result in vascular dementia in about 150,000 cases. The condition, the second most common form of dementia, develops from a lack of blood to the brain, causing reduced cognitive function and memory loss.

Researchers have now found that heart failure patients are 35 per cent less likely to develop dementia after a single shot of the flu vaccination.”


To learn more about ongoing dementia research and treatment strategies, be sure to attend Akolade’s 2016 Dementia Strategy Summit.

Christian Berechree joined Akolade’s production team in May 2016. He has a Bachelor of Media and Music and a Masters in Journalism.

Christian is a musical theatre geek and a new dad, and he’ll happily spend hours telling you about either or both of those things.

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