An Implant full of Antibodies could stop the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease

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Researchers from the Brain Mind Institute at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (Switzerland) have created a subcutaneous implant which releases antibodies tagged against amyloid beta plaques in Alzheimer’s Disease.

alzheimer_disease_neurodegenerative_brain_antibody_epflThe cause of neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s is due to protein ‘misfolding’ (specifically amyloid beta), leading to formation of protein plaques in the brain.

These protein plaques impede proper brain function and disrupt nerve cell connectivity, memory, and cognition. Hence, for successful immunotherapies, it is imperative to administer monoclonal antibodies against amyloid beta before symptoms associated with irreversible brain damage begin to show.

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Current treatment requires repetitive vaccine administrations, which may have side effects and are usually administered after the onset of symptoms (and when irreversible brain damage begins to show). You can read our review on the different kinds of treatments for Alzheimer’s.

To address this, researchers at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne have designed a macro-encapsulation device that uses a passive immunisation defense mechanism, which was published in Brain.

This releases antibodies designed to bind to anti-amyloid beta proteins in vivo, and so prevent the irreversible brain damage observed such neurodegenerative diseases.

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The device stops the toxic amyloid beta plaques from building up in the brain, as shown in a pre-clinical proof of concept study in mice. (Credit: École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne)

The design includes a loading port for injection of engineered cells through the device, which uses two permeable membranes and genetically engineered mouse myoblast cells.

The membranes serve as a protective barrier from the patient’s immune system, without hindering the free exchange of nutrients needed for the myoblast cells to survive.

And this is important, as these cells chronically secrete the antibodies targeted against amyloid beta, continually preventing any build up of amyloid plaque – therefore stopping the onset of symptoms in Alzheimer’s.

Upon implantation in mice, the device (only 27mm long and 1mm thick) also demonstrated disruption of tau protein folding (also thought to misfold with Alzheimer’s disease) in the hippocampus area of the brain.

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The device is designed to be implanted subcutaneously, to secrete the needed antibodies from engineered mouse cells in the long-term (Credit: École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne)

The biodegradable material used to make this capsule makes it an appealing device for clinical trials, and the system used to assemble the device also allows for reproducibility on a large-scale.

In addition, its implantation under the skin allows for steady antibody levels in the plasma, as opposed to the alternative repetitive injections used to fight chronic diseases.

However, further studies need to be performed – particularly in order to assess its potential translation into the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease in humans.

Nonetheless, this tech introduces an innovative biotech tool for treatment of Alzheimer’s before symptoms develop – which is certainly a huge development in field.


Feature Image Credit: École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne
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