Scientists at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland have created an implantable capsule that prevents Alzheimer’s disease. The scientists refer to it as a macroencapsulation device which produces antibodies in the brain that clears the Alzheimer’s-causing amyloid beta protein, according to their study published in the journal Brain on March 8.
Experts believe that an over-accumulation of amyloid beta or Abeta causes Alzheimer’s, stemming from toxic protein plaque deposition. The problem with current treatments is the need to administer vaccines repeatedly that can cause side effects and may harm the patient. This implantable capsule solves this problem.
After 39 weeks, the antibodies prevented the formation of Abeta plaques in the mice’s brain. Additionally, the researchers also noticed that the mice experienced a reduction of the protein called tau phosphorylation, which is one of Alzheimer’s signs characterised by the addition of a phosphoryl group to a molecule that causes protein enzymes to malfunction.
The completed device measures 27 millimetres long, 12 mm wide and 1.2 mm thick and is made of two permeable membranes glued together with a frame made of polypropylene. The bioactive capsule also contains a hydrogel that supports cell growth.
This capsule is implanted in the tissue under the skin and was designed in researcher Patrick Aebischer’s lab at EPFL. This contains cells designed to produce a steady flow of antibodies in the blood stream that will eventually reach the brain to fight against Abeta plaques.
The cells are taken from the muscle tissue. The permeable membranes help these get their needed nutrients and molecules from the surrounding tissue.
Aebischer claims that the said materials used do not harm the tissue, preventing rejection. The capsule’s membranes protect the cell component from being destroyed by the person’s immune system, making it usable to many patients.
Moreover, this device can be easily produced on a bigger scale. Hence, the researchers hope that this will be soon available to those in need.