A drug developed for diabetes could bring substantial improvements in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and “holds clear promise of being developed into” the first real treatment.
This is huge, if truly effective. There have previously been no treatments that could reverse Alzheimer’s, just lessen some of the effects.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia and the numbers are expected to rise to two million people in the UK by 2051 according to Alzheimer’s Society, who part- funded the research.
In a report posted this week in the science journal Brain Research, researchers at England’s Lancaster University said their work suggested that rodents suffering from a version of Alzheimer’s disease improved greatly with the drug.
“[The drug shows a] clear promise of being developed into a new treatment for chronic neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease,” the scientists’ report reads.
“The drug improved memory formation in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease,” they said, adding that amyloid plaque load, inflammation and oxidative stress were all visibly reduced.
Developing new treatments for ailments can be a tedious and frustrating process for scientists.
Oftentimes, newly developed drugs just don’t work the way they were intended, falling short of expectations and leading to a dead end.
But other times, a drug developed for one purpose turns out to be even more effective at treating something completely different. That appears to be exactly what is happening with a new class of drug originally developed for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, but has recently been shown to have a drastic benefit in mice with Alzheimer’s.
The new drugs, which are classified as “triple agonist” (because they work in three ways), were tested on mice which were developed to express genes linked to Alzheimer’s. The animals were already exhibiting many of the symptoms associated with the disease, including compromised memory and difficulty learning, but showed dramatic improvement in their brain function after receiving the unique treatment.
Treated mice also had lower levels of proteins which clump together and form plaques in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease, that affect the ability of nerve cells to communicate and cause them to die. Those genes have been found in people who have a form of Alzheimer’s that can be inherited.
This could be a result of insulin not getting to the cells properly – insulin is a growth factor which is known to protect brain cells, and insulin resistance has been observed in Alzheimer’s disease brains, as well as being the biological mechanism behind type 2 diabetes.