A new vaccine that could help prevent the onset of dementia is due to start human trials in the next 18 to 20 months, with the drug set to enter the market in five to ten years if the trials are successful.

Researchers at Flinders University in Australia, with support from the US government, are now poised to progress from animal testing to human trials, the Australian Daily Telegraph reports.

Lead author of the study professor Nikolai Petrovsky drew similarities between the effects of the disorder on the brain to what happens to an egg when it’s boiled, with the yolk clumping and hardening. The new vaccine works by allowing antibodies to find and digest clumps on the brain, which could potentially reverse the disease.

He explained that work on this vaccine has been ongoing for 20 years and that it could be “revolutionary” once it does become available since there are currently no effective treatments for dealing with what is taking place in the brain itself. Instead, medication works to reduce symptoms, rather than treating the root cause of the degenerative disease.

Professor Petrovsky went on to say that it’s possible that the vaccine could be used to reverse the effects of dementia, but also to prevent the disease in those with a genetic predisposition to it.

“What we do know is that when people have very severe disease, it’s much harder to make therapy work/ So the question with a vaccine like this is, do we use it when people get the very first indication they have a problem? Or, do we even try to get it to people who are at risk or with a family history, for instance?” he added.

A recent report from the Alzheimer’s Society in the UK explained that the risk of developing dementia rises with age. And as population ageing continues to grow both in this country and around the world, the number of those living with the condition will increase sharply in the future.

It was estimated that in 2019 there were nearly 885,000 older people living with dementia in the UK. It’s projected that the number of older people with the disease will rise by 80 per cent to reach around 1.6 million come the year 2040, driven by continued population ageing.

The total cost of dementia in this country last year reached £34.7 billion and it’s projected to increase by 172 per cent to hit £94.1 billion in 2040.

There are numerous research projects currently ongoing, looking into different treatments for the disease. For example, studies are underway at Queen’s University Belfast to find out whether drugs designed to help treat rheumatoid arthritis can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, with evidence from small studies and clinical data analysis suggesting that those with arthritis taking these drugs could be at a reduced risk of developing dementia.

And the University of Bath is now looking into whether Epicatechin, a common food compound, could be instrumental in the development of a new treatment for the disease.

Epicatechin is found in the likes of fruit, chocolate, nuts, seeds and drinks like tea and coffee, a naturally occurring compound known as a flavonol. Studies in mice have found that the compound could potentially slow the formation of clumps of proteins in Alzheimer’s disease

And studies of dietary habits among people from all over the world have helped to link improved brain health with the consumption of some plant flavonols.

Researchers have also been looking into whether eating certain leafy vegetables could slow down thinking and memory decline associated with getting older.

Commenting on the study, head of research at the Alzheimer’s Society Dr James Pickett said that what will benefit the heart will also benefit the head and following a healthy diet with all the vital nutrients we need, in combination with avoiding smoking and taking regular exercise, can help reduce the risk of developing dementia.

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