Promising early results from Parkinson’s vaccine study

A study in people with Parkinson’s has found that a vaccine can help slow down clumping of a protein known to be linked to the condition.

Research has shown that Parkinson’s can be linked to a protein called alpha-synuclein. In most people, alpha-synuclein doesn’t cause problems. But in people with Parkinson’s, strands of the protein can start to stick together, forming clumps. In the brain, these clumps can go on to damage surrounding cells, causing them to die.

One avenue of research is looking at finding ways to stop this happening by sticking something to the ends of the alpha-synuclein protein and preventing it from clumping up.

Pharmaceutical company Vaxxinity has been working on a vaccine that can do this. The vaccine has already been tested for safety in 50 healthy people. Then they tested how effective the vaccine could be for people with Parkinson’s.

How does the vaccine work?

The vaccine aims to train the body to recognise strands of sticky alpha-synuclein that aren’t formed right and produce antibodies against them. Antibodies will stick to the protein and stop it sticking to itself. This should slow the rate the alpha-synuclein clumps together.

In this study, the research team tested the vaccine in 13 people with Parkinson’s. After having the vaccine, the researchers took samples of the fluid that surrounds the spine (the cerebrospinal fluid, or CSF). This fluid has been used in previous studies to check for the presence of alpha-synuclein clumps.

They found that alpha-synuclein clumps formed more slowly in people who had received the vaccine compared to those who hadn’t. This was even more obvious in people who had a higher dose of the vaccine. The same results were seen at the end of the trial, 24 weeks after having the vaccine.

A vaccine for Parkinson’s?

Dr Becky Jones, Research Communications Manager at Parkinson’s UK, said:

"These results are promising, and seeing the slowing of alpha-synuclein clumping in the CSF is a very good indicator that the vaccine is working as intended.

"Vaxxinity is still reviewing the results of this study, so it will be interesting to see what else becomes clear from the trial.

"This phase 1 trial has only involved a small number of people. In the past, vaccine trials have faced challenges in studies in later stages of research. We will continue to monitor the progress of this vaccine and share any further news as it comes."