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Lausanne, 29.05. 2006 13:18

ENS 2006: Meeting of European neurologists brings together 2,000 experts in Lausanne
Researchers present immunotherapy against Alzheimer's

Lausanne, 29 May 2006 - It is claimed that the innovative therapy used to fight against Alzheimer's disease which clears the brain from specific amyloid deposits by immunization has proved feasible. Now further immunisation studies are ongoing, in the hope to show how the results from research can be used in clinical treatment, as Prof. J.-M. Orgogozo, from Bordeaux University Hospital (France), reports today at the annual conference of the European Neurological Society.

The 16th meeting of the European Neurological Society (ENS) is taking place in Lausanne (Switzerland). The most significant trends and highlights of neurological research and therapy will be presented at this highly important European meeting on neurology.

It is understandable that Alzheimer's disease is the particular focus of international researchers' interests: it is the most common form of dementia in old age. More than 12 million people suffer from Alzheimer's worldwide; experts anticipate that this figure will increase to 22 million by 2025.

The form of therapy presented by Prof. Orgogozo in Lausanne targets a special mechanism that has been observed in the brain of Alzheimer patients: they have particularly high quantities of beta amyloid protein deposits which are believed to damage and destroy the brain. The immunotherapy aims to prevent the accumulation and even to ensure the degradation of beta amyloid in the brain.

A series of experimental studies and one clinical trial have demonstrated the effectiveness of this strategy on the brain deposits, according to Prof. Orgogozo. "The available data show that amyloid deposition in the brain can be delayed, degraded and even totally removed by immunisation and that a delay in cognitive breakdown is observed in patients developing antibodies."

However, this is not without problems: in 2002, that clinical study had to be aborted because 18 of the 300 patients immunised with beta amyloid across the world suffered from meningeal and cerebral inflammation. Yet many experts are convinced that the principle remains extremely promising data analysis of the aborted study showed that even two years after immunisation, a proportion of the immunised patients were still clearly producing more antibodies against the protein deposits in the brain. The fact that the extent of antibody production correlated with the protection of mental capacities was shown by the better results from these patients in certain standard neuropsychological tests. Since both some antibody producers and some patients without antibodies suffered from meningoencephalitis, experts concluded that this concerning complication was probably not caused by the antibodies directly.

The improvement in safety and compatibility of the therapy and the attainment of a long term therapeutic effect are now the focus of research activities. Other vaccine versions will now be introduced, with the aim of producing as much of antibody response as possible without provoking the previous side effects. A credible alternative is to administer to the patients specific anti-amyloid antibodies, then bypassing the need of antibody response by the patients (which occurs only in about ¼ of the cases). This approach may also reduce the risk of cerebral complications "How these findings will be used in clinical practice will soon be shown by new research results. At present, at least four large studies are underway."

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