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How Diabetes Medication Could Treat Alzheimer's

Alissa Sauer
By Alissa SauerNovember 17, 2014

A recent study shows that a popular diabetes medication may be effective in treating and slowing Alzheimer’s disease. Learn more about the link between the two conditions and why researchers are excited about the new findings. 

The Link Between Diabetes and Alzheimer’s

There is no doubt that there is a connection between diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

Past studies have shown a strong correlation between the two and have found that 70% of people who have type 2 diabetes ultimately develop Alzheimer’s. This has lead some experts to believe that the disease may even be third type of diabetes, while others argue that Alzheimer’s could be a very advanced stage of type 2 diabetes.

Deepening the connection, researchers have observed that people with Alzheimer’s often have a lower level of insulin in their brain which may mean that brain cells are not getting the energy they need to survive, killing them, and resulting in loss of memory. This process is similar to what happens to a person’s body when they have diabetes and their body does not use insulin properly.

Diabetes Drug May Be Effective Tool in Treating Alzheimer’s

Using what we know to be true about the two conditions, a new study explored the effectiveness of a common diabetes medication on Alzheimer’s disease and had promising results. A study funded by the Alzheimer’s Society and published in the journal Neuropharmacology used laboratory mice to examine the effects of two diabetes drugs, lixisenatide and liraglutide.

Researchers were pleased to find that the two drugs were able to protect brain cells from injury or degeneration in mice that had Alzheimer’s. Dr. Simon Ridley, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK declared, “This study found that two diabetes drugs could slow nerve cell damage in mice with some of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s and that the animals also performed better on a memory test.”

Also pleased with the results was Professor Christian Holscher from Lancaster University who lead this study. He said, “These are very exciting results. There are no drugs on the market for Alzheimer’s disease that actually treat the disease, all we currently have are two types of drugs that mask the symptoms for a while. Lixisenatide and liraglutide offer a real improvement by treating the basis of the disease and, therefore, preventing degeneration.”

Also, because the drugs are already on the market for people with diabetes, it could be ready for treatment quicker than other drugs that still need to be developed and licensed. The Alzheimer’s Society is moving forward and funding a clinical trial on people who have Alzheimer’s disease to determine if the drug has the same promising effects on humans as it does on mice. 

Would you consider using a diabetes medication to treat Alzheimer’s? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Alissa Sauer

Alissa Sauer

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