Pharmacology & therapeutics | 7 Feb 2013
E Valera and E Masliah
Immunotherapy is currently being intensively explored as much-needed disease-modifying treatment for neurodegenerative diseases. While Alzheimer’s disease (AD) has been the focus of numerous immunotherapeutic studies, less attention has been paid to Parkinson’s disease (PD) and other neurodegenerative disorders. The reason for this difference is that the amyloid beta (Aβ) protein in AD is a secreted molecule that circulates in blood and is readably recognized by antibodies. In contrast, α-synuclein (α-syn), tau, huntingtin and other proteins involved in neurodegenerative diseases have been considered to be exclusively of intracellular nature. However, the recent discovery that toxic oligomeric versions of α-syn and tau accumulate in the membrane and can be excreted to the extracellular environment has provided a rationale for the development of immunotherapeutic approaches for PD, dementia with Lewy bodies, frontotemporal dementia, and other neurodegenerative disorders characterized by the abnormal accumulation of these proteins. Active immunization, passive immunization, and T cell-mediated cellular immunotherapeutic approaches have been developed targeting Aβ, α-syn and tau. Most advanced studies, including results from phase III clinical trials for passive immunization in AD, have been recently reported. Results suggest that immunotherapy might be a promising therapeutic approach for neurodegenerative diseases that progress with the accumulation and propagation of toxic protein aggregates. In this manuscript we provide an overview on immunotherapeutic advances for neurodegenerative disorders, with special emphasis on α-synucleinopathies.
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