The foundations of our research

Alzheimer’s Disease, the most common form of dementia, is characterised by the presence of two typical lesions in the brains of its sufferers: an extracellular lesion consisting of senile plaques, or amyloid deposits, and an intracellular lesion consisting of neurofibrillary tangles. It has been scientifically confirmed that beta-amyloid protein is the main component of senile plaques and that tau protein is the main component of neurofibrillary tangles. However, we have discovered in our laboratory that beta-amyloid protein is present in both senile plaques and neurofibrillary tangles.

Senescence and beta-amyloid protein are perhaps the most characteristic of the many factors that intervene in the development of Alzheimer’s Disease. The few known cases of genetic or familial Alzheimer’s Disease arise as a result of alterations to the genes that code for the proteins involved in the metabolism of beta-amyloid protein. As a result, the majority of therapeutic interventions proposed to combat Alzheimer’s Disease are principally aimed at one or more of the supposed harmful effects produced by the multiple forms and varieties of beta-amyloid protein. However, it is highly unlikely that any of these therapeutic proposals will prove to be effective unless implemented prior to the onset of clear signs of dementia. It is also likely that the disease cannot even be halted once established. Therapies in general, and pharmacological treatments in particular, must therefore be preventive, thus leading to a need to develop and test effective therapies in individuals who we know will almost certainly go on to develop the disease.

The disease is difficult to diagnose in its early stages and cannot currently be cured or prevented. We have developed a series of kits that can help to detect the disease before the first symptoms appear by determining the levels of two variants of beta-amyloid protein in blood, as well as a therapeutic vaccine that we hope will alter the course of the disease if applied at an early stage, or prevent it if applied before it appears.