A group of scientists from the Euroespes biomedical research centre in Galicia, lead by Dr Ramón Cacabelos, have developed the first preventative vaccine against Alzheimer's, and have applied for a patent with the US Patent Office.
"It's another step forward in the fight against the illness", said Dr Cacabelos in today's press conference.
The vaccine, known as EE-AD-SP1 and tested on genetically modified rats, allows the process of brain death - which begins as soon as the brain reaches maturity at the age of 30 - to be intercepted, thus preventing it from developing again in old age.
The vaccine has also shown itself to be effective in reduce pathogenic features of the disease in animals with signs of cerebral degeneration.
The vaccine, which is given in two separate doses, introduces a new immunogen which promotes the generation of antibodies to fight the amyloid plaques where beta-amyloid proteins accumulate in the brain of Alzheimer patients.
The drug, presented in sphingosine-1-phosphate rich liposomes that contribute to the regeneration of neurones, also impedes intracranial haemorrhages and side effects of other Alzheimer medicines.
This twin purpose - therapeutic and preventative - makes this vaccine a new weapon in the fight against the disease and could benefit both people at high risk of developing the illness, as well as those who already show symptoms of it.
Once it has been accepted by the US Patent Office, the vaccine will be clinically developed overseas, most probably in the United States. "Europe is slow when it comes to developing new drugs", said Cacabelos.
The Euroespes group, which has spent 20 years developing drugs to treat Alzheimer's, believes that the vaccine could be ready for dispensing in six to eight years.
Alzheimer's is currently the third biggest health problem in the world and the fifth largest cause of death amongst the over 65s in the United States. In the European Union, dementia care and treatment costs taxpayers 160 billion euros a year, with an average cost of 22,000 euros per patient.