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Over the last decade, a large number of clinical trials involving immunotherapy have been conducted in the field of Alzheimer’s research. The overall success rate of these studies has not been encouraging.
Immunotherapy involves artificially boosting the immune system so that it targets of particular pathogen – like a rogue protein in the case of Alzheimer’s – and clears it from the body.
Recently, preclinical research has pointed to several possible reasons why this approach may be struggling in the clinical trials, and potential solutions that could be explored.
In today’s post, we will review two research reports and consider how this applies to Parkinson’s research.
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Immune cells (blue) checking out a suspect cell. Source: Lindau-nobel
Immunotherapy is a method of boosting the body’s immune system to better fight a particular disease. Think of it as training the immune cells in your body to target a particular protein.
The approach involves utilising the immune system of your body, and artificially altering it to target a particular protein/disease-causing agent that is not usually recognised as a pathogen (a disease causing agent).
It is truly remarkable that we have gone from painting on cave walls to flying helicopters on Mars and therapeutically manipulating our body’s primary defense system.
Immunotherapy is potentially a very powerful method for treating a wide range of medical conditions. To date, the majority of the research on immunotherapies have focused on the field of oncology (‘cancer’). Numerous methods of immunotherapy have been developed for cancer and are currently being tested in the clinic (Click here to read more about immunotherapy for cancer).
Many approaches to immunotherapy against cancer. Source: Bloomberg
Immunotherapy has also been tested in neurodegenerative conditions, like Alzheimer’s and more recently Parkinson’s. It typically involves researchers carefully designing antibodies that target a rogue protein (like beta amyloid in Alzheimer’s and alpha synuclein in Parkinson’s) which begin to cluster together, and this aggregation of protein is believed to lead to neurotoxicity.
What are antibodies?