What it is: Australian and U.S. scientists at Adelaide’s Flinders University have created what may be the world’s first dementia vaccine, and human trials could begin in the next two to three years. The International Business Times reports that the vaccine “targets tau proteins and abnormal beta-amyloid that cause Alzheimer’s,” preventing and reversing early stages of the disease. “Essentially what we have designed is a vaccine that makes the immune system produce antibodies and those antibodies act like tow trucks so they come to your driveway, they latch on to the breakdown protein or car and they pull it out of the driveway,” explained Flinders University medicine professor Nikolai Petrovsky.
Why it’s important: According to the World Health Organization, dementia-related illnesses and care have a total global societal cost of $600 billion per year. If effective, this vaccine could completely eliminate the 7.7 million new cases of dementia we see every year.