There's been a major milestone in the journey to find a cure for Parkinson's Disease, which affects nearly one million Americans and 8 million worldwide. A vaccine being tested that could stop the disease in its tracks. NY1's Erin Billups filed the following report.
There's good news for the nearly 60,000 Americans diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease each year.
Austrian biotech company AFFiRis AG announced positive results of a phase one safety study for a vaccine that could slow or even stop the progression of Parkinson's.
It works by targeting a known genetic component of the disease, a protein called alpha-synuclein.
"It's been a pretty systematic effort since we started to find some of these genetic causes, but we're now finally getting that first indication of maybe being able to translate that understand into a potential therapy," says Todd Sherer, CEO of the Michael J. Fox Foundation.
The Michael J. Fox foundation is helping to fund the trials, which at this point are taking place in Europe with about 32 patients.
It's still not clear what a-synuclein does in the brain but scientists have found that when clumped together the protein becomes toxic.
The vaccine mimics that clumped protein, activating the immune system.
"[The] patients own immune system produces antibodies against this structure and these antibodies then attack it and destroy it," says Dr. Achim Schneeberger, Affiris Chief Medical Officer.
They found a majority of the patients on the drug were producing the needed antibodies to fight off the disease and there was a reduction of the toxic protein.
"A little bit more than half of the patients showed a stabilization in their parameters," Schneeberger.
Meanwhile the control group, participants who weren't given the vaccine, saw a steady decline in their movement and coordination—common symptoms of the neuro-degenerative Parkinson's Disease.
"It looks like the people obviously who got the treatment did better off than those who didn't. With all the caveats of it being a small initial study. But it's pointing in the right direction to justify more research."
The next step is to figure out the correct dosage. If successful the trials will then move to phase two.
It could take another six to eight years before we see approval from the Food and Drug Administration the States.
For more information, go to foxtrialfinder.michaeljfox.org.