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Archive - Mar 1, 2011

Nasal Vaccine Shows Promise for Alzheimer’s, Stroke

Researchers led by Dr. Dan Frenkel of Tel Aviv University's Department of Neurobiology are working on a nasally-delivered 2-in-1 vaccine that promises to protect against both Alzheimer's and stroke. The new vaccine repairs vascular damage in the brain by rounding up "troops" from the body's own immune system. And in addition to its prophylactic effect, study results suggest that the vaccine can have beneficial effects even when Alzheimer's symptoms are already present. The research on this new technology was recently accepted for publication in the journal Neurobiology of Aging. "Using part of a drug that was previously tested as an influenza drug, we've managed to successfully induce an immune response against amyloid proteins in the blood vessels," said Dr. Frenkel, who collaborated on this project with Professor Howard L. Weiner of Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School. "In early pre-clinical studies, we've found it can prevent both brain tissue damage and restore cognitive impairment," Dr. Frenkel added. Modifying a vaccine technology owned by Glaxo Smith Kline, a multinational drug company, Tel Aviv University's new therapeutic approach activates a natural mechanism in our bodies that fights against vascular damage in the brain. The vaccine, Dr. Frenkel explained, activates macrophages — phagocytic cells in the body that swallow foreign antigens. When the vaccine activates large numbers of these macrophages, they clear away the damaging build-up of waxy amyloid proteins in the brain's vascular system. Studies in animal models showed that once these proteins are cleared from the brain, further damage can be prevented, and existing damage due to a previous stroke can be repaired.

Two Genes for "Binge Drinking" Identified

Scientists at the University of Maryland Medical School and the Medical University Vienna have identified two genes associated with binge drinking, a discovery that may pave the way toward new, more effective treatments of excessive alcohol consumption. The scientists found that manipulating two receptors in the brain, GABA receptors and toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4), "caused profound reduction" of binge drinking for two weeks in rodents that had been bred and trained to drink excessively. About 30 percent of Americans who drink do so excessively, and about 75,000 people die each year from the effects of excessive drinking. Current treatments for excessive alcohol drinking include prescription drugs Revia and Campral for controlling cravings. To ease withdrawal symptoms, doctors often prescribe medications such as Valium and Librium that carry their own risks of addiction. Valium and Librium reduce the anxiety alcoholics feel when they stop drinking but do not reduce cravings for alcohol. The new study found that treatments that manipulate both the GABA receptor and TLR4 have the potential to reduce anxiety and control cravings, with little to no risk for addiction, according to lead investigator Dr. Harry June, professor of psychiatry and pharmacology and experimental therapeutics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.