Researchers at the University of Dundee and Oxford have combined the tetanus vaccine with a viral particle that normally affects cucumbers to create a compound that stimulates the immune system.
However, charities which support people suffering from Alzheimer’s welcomed the research, but warned that it is “in the very early stages” of development.
Tests have shown the resultant vaccine could also help treat diseases like psoriasis and some allergies - and raises antibody levels that are believed to be beneficial in preventing dementia.
Now scientists are set to begin human trials of the vaccine having received regulatory approval - and believe the study could help spare hundreds of thousands of people from the ravages of chronic disease.
Scientists led by Dundee University’s Dr John Foerster and Oxford’s Professor Martin Bachmann were able to take the protein coat of cucumber mosaic virus and incorporate a tetanus vaccine-derived protein structure known to stimulate the immune system in order to create vaccines to treat multiple chronic diseases. These vaccines can be either preventative - which is the hope for Alzheimer’s - but also therapeutic, meaning they can cure a disease like psoriasis after it has already been established.
Dr Foerster said: “As an academic dermatologist with special interest in the immune system, my specific attention is on vaccines to be developed against chronic skin diseases.
“The idea is pretty simple – for diseases such as psoriasis or eczema, the newest and most effective medicines on the market are so-called ‘antibodies’, which are what you and I produce against bugs in a common cold.
“Our research shows that this technique works in mice and, importantly, our new vaccine technology shows that it is likely to be a more effective type of vaccine than existing ones in older people.”
Amy Dalrymple, head of policy at Alzheimer’s Scotland, said: “We are quite excited about some of the research that has been done in the prevention field at the moment. However, this is at a very early stage.”
Louise Walker, research officer at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “Alzheimer’s disease is one of the biggest health challenges facing us today, and there is no way at present to stop or slow the progression of the condition. Therefore it is great to see researchers taking innovative approaches like this, which uses viruses to act as vaccines, to find ways to tackle the challenge.
“However, as this research is in the very early stages and has only been tested on mice, it will be a long time before we are able to know whether this method will be able to bring benefits to people with Alzheimer’s disease.”
The group’s paper is published in the journal Nature Vaccines.