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GHSU student gives hope to the future of Alzheimer's care

Scott Webster

Scott Webster has seen firsthand what Alzheimer's disease did to a family of a close friend of his. This inspired him to find a cure. (WRDW-TV / Sept. 28, 2011)

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2011

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Alzheimer's disease is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. It does not yet have a cure, but thanks to one GHSU graduate student, that could change.

Scott Webster won a $1,000 scholarship for his research on Alzheimer's disease. That research comes in the form of a vaccine that targets two proteins: amyloid and R.A.G.E., or receptor for advanced glycation endproducts.

"We've developed a vaccine against these proteins which are bad proteins in Alzheimer's disease," Webster said.

All other Alzheimer's vaccines only target amyloid. All others have failed clinical trials. According to the Alzheimer's Association, there is only one vaccine being clinically tried right now.

Webster's vaccine isn't being clinically tried yet. It's only being tried in mice, but he's seen positive results so far.

"We see that it is actually really helping," he said. "These animals do better on cognitive performance tests, so it's making them smarter."

It's also not your typical vaccine.

"They pretty much drink the vaccine," Webster said. "That kind of cuts down on a lot of the side effects."

Webster says other vaccines are harsh on the immune system and by giving the vaccine orally, it makes it easier on the brain.

Even though Webster's research has only seen success in mice, it still means hope.

"I believe with individuals like Scott, someday, we will have a world without Alzheimer's," said Kathy Tuckey said, program director at the Alzheimer's Association.

Webster said any sort of step in the right direction helps the fight against Alzheimer's.

Hope for people and their families to live without Alzheimer's someday. Webster has seen firsthand what it did to a family of a close friend of his.

"I saw over a period of about five to seven years a vast decline in [her] grandfather, as well as how much stress it actually put on their family," he said. "I guess I just always had a heart for that and trying to figure out a cure for this horrible disease."

But there's still a long way to go before a cure is found.

"We're definitely getting closer to a cure," Webster said. "I don't think you're going to see a cure within the next six months to a year."

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