Targeting beta-amyloid pathology in Alzheimer's disease with Abeta immunotherapy

Neurotherapeutics. 2008 Jul;5(3):415-20. doi: 10.1016/j.nurt.2008.05.013.


More than 10 clinical trials of Abeta immunotherapy are currently underway in patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD). The aim is to identify safe approaches for the efficacious antibody-mediated removal of brain beta-amyloid or its neurotoxic oligomeric precursors consisting of aggregated amyloid beta-peptide (Abeta). Initial experimental and neuro-pathological evidence for clearance of brain beta-amyloid in response to Abeta immunotherapy is associated with structural and functional rescue of neurons, as well as initial signs of clinical stabilization and reduced rates of dementia progression. For the next steps in the future improvement of Abeta immunotherapy, major challenges in pharmacokinetics, safety, and tolerability need to be addressed. These include the low penetrations rates of IgG molecules through the blood-brain barrier, possible reductions in brain volume, the possibility of autoimmune disease related to unwanted cross-reactivity with endogenous antigens on physiological structures, micro-hemorrhages related to cross-reaction with pre-existing vascular amyloid pathology, possible relocalization of Abeta from beta-amyloid plaques to brain blood vessels resulting in increased amyloid angiopathy, and the lacking activity of Abeta antibodies on pre-existing neurofibrillary tangle pathology, as well as the lacking molecular identification of the forms of Abeta to be therapeutically targeted. The solutions to these problems will be guided by the fine lines between tolerance and immunity against physiological and pathological structures, respectively, as well as by the understanding of the pathogenic transition of soluble Abeta into toxic oligomeric aggregation intermediates in the dynamic equilibrium of beta-amyloid fibril assembly. Provided that the ongoing and planned clinical trials address these issues in a timely manner, there is a good chance for Abeta immunotherapy to be one of the first disease-modifying therapies of Alzheimer's disease to be introduced into clinical practice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / immunology
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology
  • Alzheimer Disease / therapy*
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / immunology*
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Antibodies / therapeutic use*
  • Brain / immunology
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy / methods*


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Antibodies