After years of racing to find a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia, scientists have broken through on a vaccine to prevent and reverse the early stages of Alzheimer’s.
The vaccine could change the lives of millions, including current and former football players.
According to the International Business Times, scientists from Flinders University in Australia and the U.S. Institute of Molecular Medicine and University of California, Irvine have developed the new vaccine by “targeting proteins in the brain that block neurons.”
If all goes well, the vaccine could be tested on humans in the next 2-3 years. And if testing is successful, the vaccine could be released within 5 years, according to a New Zealand news site.
For anyone who has watched a loved one suffer through Alzheimer’s and dementia, two awful and heartbreaking diseases, this is amazing news.
So how does this relate to football?
In the past 10 years or so, concussions have become a major conversation in football. Scientists found that, over time, football players sustain thousands of small concussions, and plenty of big ones, too. These repeated concussions lead to CTE.
The mental and physical effects of CTE are so great, players have begin to retire earlier and some have openly wondered if football might go extinct one day.
To explain further, CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) is a “progressive degenerative disease of the brain,” and in a similar category as Alzheimer’s and dementia. To read up on CTE, Boston University has a great and easy to follow explainer.
In layman’s term’s, CTE is caused by a buildup of an “abnormal” protein called tau. This type of protein is also a major factor in the development of Alzheimer’s, and the focus of the vaccine.
As a scientist from Flinders explained to ABC Australia, the vaccine works by leading the immune system to produce antibodies to remove the tau protein.
The question for football fans now becomes: Can the new vaccine prevent and reverse the effects of CTE in football players?
To be honest, I don’t know.
I’m not a scientist, so I cannot answer the question. Years of research by qualified scientists may be required to find out.
However, in theory, from what we know about CTE, this new vaccine might be able to work wonders for CTE patients. One day, the vaccine could perhaps be tailored to specifically combat CTE.
Time will likely be required to find out more and enact the vaccine. The solution is not an immediate one.
But in the meantime, the vaccine does have one useful purpose: It provides overdue and much-needed hope to families who have suffered at the hands of Alzheimer’s, dementia, and CTE.