Diabetes Drugs May Help Treat Alzheimer's Disease

Surprising findings on the relationship between obesity, type 2 diabetes, and dementia.

Drugs that treat type 2 diabetes may help alleviate some symptoms in the treatment of patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

Furthermore, a study published in Diabetologia also found that Alzheimer’s my lead to the development of diabetes, as opposed to the other way around. In order to investigate why both conditions are commonly found together in elderly patients, researchers developed a model of Alzheimer’s disease.

The results of the study showed that increased levels of a gene involved in the production of toxic proteins in the brain can lead to Alzheimer’s-like symptoms, as well as the development of diabetic issues.

“Many people are unaware of the relationship between diabetes and Alzheimer's disease, but the fact is that around 80% of people with Alzheimer's disease also have some form of diabetes or disturbed glucose metabolism,” said lead researcher Bettina Platt. “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."

Previous findings have indicated that obesity can lead to type 2 diabetes and dementia, but the current study suggests the opposite effect.

“Additionally, it was previously believed that diabetes starts in the periphery, ie 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, so again showing that diabetes doesn't necessarily have to start with your body getting fat, it can start with changes in the brain,” Platt said.

The findings revealed that since these 2 diseases are so closely related, that diabetes drugs could help in the treatment of Alzheimer’s.

“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,” Platt said. “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.”