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Diabetes drug potentially effective against Alzheimer’s

A drug developed for diabetes may be useful in treating Alzheimer’s disease. Tested in mice, this molecule has “significantly reversed memory loss” in these rodents.

Alzheimer's disease


  1. Alzheimer’s and diabetes: close links
  2. New antidiabetic reduces memory loss … in mice
  3. Results that need to be confirmed in humans

Alzheimer’s and diabetes: close links

Alzheimer’s disease is the leading cause of dementia. In France, there are 850 000 patients and according to the forecasts, their number should reach 1275000 in only 8 years …. Faced with this scourge, today there is no effective treatment. Today, researchers are trying to find out if drugs developed to treat other diseases can benefit people with Alzheimer’s disease. This approach could facilitate the availability of new drugs for those who need them.

Among the drugs tested, antidiabetics are given special attention because type 2 diabetes is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and has been implicated in the progression of the disease. Insulin resistance may play a role in the development of neurodegenerative disorders because it is a growth factor that can protect neurons.

New antidiabetic reduces memory loss … in mice

In this context, researchers at Lancaster University have tested a drug called triple agonist initially developed against diabetes. Previous studies conducted with existing anti-diabetes drugs (such as liraglutide) have shown real promise for people with Alzheimer’s disease.

But this is the first time that a drug acting on three lines of action has been tested in this indication. It combines an action on growth factors GLP-1, GIP and Glucagon, hormones that stimulate insulin production. And we know that the activity of growth factors are altered at the brain level in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

The study used transgenic mice that “mimic” human Alzheimer’s disease. As part of a labyrinth test, the drug has improved learning and memory with:

  • Increased levels of a brain growth factor that protects the functioning of nerve cells;
  • A reduction in the amount of amyloid plaques in the brain linked to Alzheimer’s disease;
  • Reduction of chronic inflammation and oxidative stress
  • A decrease in the loss of nerve cells

For Professor Holscher, the lead author, finds that these very promising results demonstrate the neuroprotective effects of these novel multi-receptor drugs originally developed to treat type 2 diabetes: ” We show here that a new triple receptor drug is promising as a treatment potential Alzheimer’s disease, but other tests to evaluate the dose and compare this molecule with other drugs should be done to find out if these new drugs are superior to previous ones . ”

Results that need to be confirmed in humans

However, be careful not to go too fast, previous research attesting promising preliminary results have finally proved disappointing (as with solanezumab developed by Eli Lilly ).

Other tracks are currently being explored against Alzheimer’s disease such as:

  • The aducanumab, a monoclonal antibody which, as part of a preliminary study, reduced amyloid plaques in the brains of patients with early stage Alzheimer’s disease and slows cognitive decline;
  • The verubecestat, developed by US Merck laboratories, has reduced the presence of beta-amyloid toxic proteins in the brain by blocking an enzyme called BACE1 in a very small sample of patients;
  • A synthetic molecule that, injected into the cerebrospinal fluid of mice and laboratory monkeys, has significantly reduced tau protein whose abnormal aggregation in the brain is characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease …

According to the World Health Organization, more than 36 million people worldwide have dementia, including a majority of Alzheimer’s disease. This number is expected to double by 2030 and triple by 2050, to 115.4 million, if no effective treatment is discovered in the coming years.



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