Can Alzheimer’s be fought with antibodies?

Antibodies are the fighting forces of immunity, capable of battling viruses, bacteria and other microbial invaders. But could antibodies battle Alzheimer’s disease, too? Many in the science community aren’t willing to let the recent failure of Solanezumab, an antibody therapy, stand as the last word for battling dementia.

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic are continuing clinical trials with immunotherapy—specifically in using antibodies to target the excess protein buildup in the brain. Called the A4 trial, the study is testing the ability of antibodies to clear out the excess proteins, preventing cell death and subsequent cognitive decline.

While much of the Alzheimer’s research is on drug therapy, immunotherapy is gaining more attention in the science community, says David Knopman, MD, a clinical neurologist at Mayo Clinic and an A4 trial researcher in a Mayo Clinic release. “The A4 trial was conceived as a way to try to prevent the cognitive impairment of Alzheimer’s disease from occurring in the first place.”

In late 2016 the clinical trial involving Eli Lilly’s Solanezumab was deemed a failure, but researchers still hold hope for its use in early-stage treatment. “There’s a very long lag time between when that elevation [of brain plaque] begins to occur and when people develop symptoms, 15 to 20 years,” says Ronald Petersen, MD, PhD, director of the Alzheimer’s Research Center at Mayo Clinic, in a broadcast interview. “So, what if we are able to image somebody who’s clinically normal, find that they have, say, the amyloid protein in the brain, treat that, try to remove that protein from the brain to prevent them from becoming clinically impaired down the road?”

Topics: Alzheimer's/Dementia