Diabetes Drug May Treat, Diagnose Alzheimers Disease


Pramlintide help to create a blood test for Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease can present a significant burden to patients, healthcare providers, and family members. While the number of patients with the disease continues to grow, progress developing new treatments seem to be at a standstill. The process of diagnosis can be long and complicated as well.

A recent study published by the Journal of Translational Research and Clinical Interventions suggests that a diabetes drug can improve learning and memory in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

The drug, amylin, was also observed to reduce disease pathology in the brains of patients. Amylin is an axis hormone that is produced by the pancreas, and has been observed to improve brain function through regulating glucose metabolism and preventing inflammation, according to the study.

The authors believe that these findings could not only lead to improved treatment options, but also may lead to the creation of a new diagnostic blood test.

Current diagnostic measures include lumbar punctures to detect biomarkers in cerebrospinal fluid and PET imaging. Unfortunately, this process can be frightening for some, and presents patients with high costs.

Included in the study were patients with Alzheimer’s disease, mild cognitive impairment, or normal cognition. The patients were administered pramlintide, a synthetic form of amylin, to determine the safety of the drug in patients without diabetes.

The patients fasted overnight, and received a blood glucose check and blood draw prior to treatment. Patients then were administered pramlintide, and had their blood glucose and side effects monitored. The study authors concluded that pramlintide was safe for use in non-diabetic patients since it did not induce hypoglycemia or nausea, as it does in patients with diabetes.

“A single injection of pramlintide into our patients was well tolerated and reduced the amyloid burden as well as lowered the concentrations of amyloid-β peptides, a major component of AD in the brain,” said corresponding author Wendy Qiu, MD, PhD.

The study authors believe that pramlintide could also be used to create a simple blood test to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease through amyloid-β and neuroinflammation.

The investigators discovered that when administered pramlintide, increases in Aβ1-40 were able to distinguish patients with Alzheimer’s disease from control patients and those with mild cognitive impairment, according to the test.

Other Aβ blood tests have not been approved for use in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, which is likely due to the absence of a compound that can cross the blood-brain barrier and the blood-cerebrospinal fluid barriers. Since pramlintide can cross both barriers, it could present a minimally invasive, but efficient testing option.

In mice, the authors discovered that a single treatment with the drug causes Aβ to surge to the blood in a way that corresponds with disease state, according to the study. This increase in blood Aβ was also observed in humans. These findings suggest that the drug could be repurposed to diagnose and treat patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

“Our study suggests a potential role for the creation of a blood test that relies on pramlintide, which could cross the blood-brain barrier and help to translocate the biomarkers related to AD pathology including amyloid-β peptides and neuroinflammation, from the brain into the bloodstream where they can be detected,” Qiu concluded.

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