Researchers make progress on Alzheimer's vaccine

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ALBUQUERQUE (CBS) Some promising news for people who fear developing Alzheimer's disease. Researchers have developed a vaccine that could protect against the disease and say it's only a matter of time before they start testing it on people.

"I really wanted to take this as a challenge to see if we could develop any sort of treatment," said Kiran Bhaskar, an associate professor at the University of New Mexico.

Bhaskar has been passionate about studying Alzheimer's disease for the last decade. He says the search for a cure started with an idea in 2013. "I would say it took about five years or so to get from where the idea generated and get the fully functioning working vaccine," he said.

Bhaskar and his team started to test the vaccine on mice. "We used a group of mice that have Alzheimer's disease and we injected them over a series of injections," said Nicole Maphis, a PhD student on the team.

She says the vaccine was created to target a specific protein that's commonly found in the brain of patients with Alzheimer's. "What we chose to pursue was a specific region of tau -- as you saw pathological tau, the red structures -- that are common in Alzheimers disease. We wanted to make a vaccine against that," Maphis said. "These antibodies seem to have cleared pathological tau. Pathological tau is one of the components of these tangles that we find in the brains of patients with Alzheimers disease."

The mice were then given a series of maze-like tests. Those that received the vaccine performed remarkably better than those that hadn't. Despite that, Maphis and Bhaskar say this isn't a complete success just yet. Being able to get the vaccine to people will not only take a few more years but could cost up to a billion dollars."We got to make sure that we have a clinical version of the vaccine so that we can test in people," Bhaskar said.

It costs the health sciences department upwards of $2-million to test just a small group. Right now Maphis and Bhaskar are looking for partnerships to help them get to their goal of getting a clinical grade vaccine.