New UK research has found evidence to suggest that Alzheimer’s disease can lead to diabetes, and the same drugs could potentially be used to treat both conditions.
The two diseases are often found together in elderly patients, but it was previously thought that diabetes occurred first, with those suffering from the condition then more likely to go on to develop dementia.
However after developing a mice model of Alzheimer’s disease, a team of researchers from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, found that it also works the other way around.
The team found that increased levels of a gene involved in the production of toxic proteins in the brain that lead to Alzheimer’s-like symptoms could also lead to the development of diabetes symptoms.
The findings also suggest that diabetes may not always start due to a problem with the pancreas or excess weight gain because of an unhealthy diet, but possibly due to changes in the brain.
Professor Bettina Platt, lead author of the study, commented on the findings, saying, “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. 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.”
The team now believes that Alzheimer’s disease and type 2 diabetes may be so closely related that looking into the diabetes drugs currently used to control glucose levels could potentially lead to effective treatments in not only alleviating the symptoms but also the progression of Alzheimer’s, with Professor Platt adding that, “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.”
The paper was published in the journal Diabetologia.