Alzheimer’s Disease and Type-2 diabetes are so closely related that drugs currently used to control glucose levels in diabetes may also alleviate the symptoms and progression of the most common form of dementia, says a pioneering new study.
“This study provides a new therapeutic angle into Alzheimer’s disease and we now think that some of the compounds that are used for obesity and diabetic deregulation might potentially be beneficial for Alzheimer’s patients as well,” said lead researcher Bettina Platt, Professor at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.
The study was published in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes.
This is also the first study of its kind to show that Alzheimer’s disease can lead to diabetes, as opposed to diabetes occurring first as was previously thought.
Dementia-related complications within the brain can also lead to changes in glucose handling and ultimately diabetes, the findings showed.
“Until now, we always assumed that obese people get type 2 diabetes and then are more likely to get dementia — we now show that actually it also works the other way around,” Platt noted.
The researchers were keen to investigate why the two diseases are so commonly found together in elderly patients.
The researchers developed a model of Alzheimer’s disease and were surprised to find that increased levels of a gene involved in the production of toxic proteins in the brain not only led to Alzheimer’s -like symptoms, but also to the development of diabetic complications.
“It was previously believed that diabetes starts in the periphery, i.e. the pancreas and liver, often due to consumption of an unhealthy diet, but here we show that dysregulation in the brain can equally lead to development of very severe diabetes,” she explained.
The findings suggest that diabetes does not necessarily have to start with your body getting fat — it can start with changes in the brain.
“Many people are unaware of the relationship between diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease, but the fact is that around 80 percent of people with Alzheimer’s disease also have some form of diabetes or disturbed glucose metabolism. This is hugely relevant as Alzheimer’s is in the vast majority of cases not inherited, and lifestyle factors and comorbidities must therefore be to blame,” Platt pointed out.
“The good news is that there are a number of new drugs available right now which we are testing to see if they would reverse both Alzheimer’s and diabetes symptoms. We will also be able to study whether new treatments developed for Alzheimer’s can improve both, the diabetic and cognitive symptoms,” she said.