The study conducted by the United Kingdom and Chinese researchers showed that an experimental diabetes treatment has improved the memory and brain function in mice with symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.
Lead researcher Professor Christian Holscher of Lancaster University in the United Kingdom said the novel treatment "holds clear promise of being developed into a new treatment for chronic neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease". The growth factors in this drug specifically affected growth in the animals' brains, and this is significant as the brains of Alzheimer's patients are shown to display growth impairment, a statement on the study reported. The mice were likewise in an advanced stage of brain atrophy.
The advantages of the "triple agonist" drugs have not been tested on humans yet.
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"Although the benefits of these "triple agonist" drugs have so far only been found in mice, other studies with existing diabetes drugs, such as liraglutide, have shown real promise for people with Alzheimer's, so further development of this work is crucial", he continued. Impaired insulin has been linked to cerebral degenerative processes in type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer's disease.
"With no new treatments in almost 15 years, we need to find new ways of tackling Alzheimer's", said Dr. Doug Brown, Director of Research and Development at the Alzheimer's Society.
A recent study also found that diabetes increases the risk of Alzheimer's disease by 65 percent, which is why blood glucose levels need to be managed within a healthy range.
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The treatment in this study combined; GLP-1, GIP and glucagon, which, like insulin protect against neurological deterioration, and tested them in mice with genetic mutations that cause Alzheimer's disease. The team, from Lancaster University, is reporting that an experimental three-part drug originally developed for use in Type 2 diabetes seems to reverse memory loss in mice.
The researchers also found the treated mice lost nerve cells at a slower pace and had reduced nerve inflammation. This impairment causes brain nerve cells to slowly lose function, eventually leading to some of the hallmark symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.
After two months of daily injections the mice were shown to significantly improve their performance in a maze created to test memory.
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"The animal data shown here would suggest this could be a potential disease modifying treatment, but these experiments were performed with a peptide that was injected daily, which is not very feasible in clinical settings", Dean M. Hartley, director of science initiatives with the Alzheimer's Association, told Futurism. According to the Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Research Foundation, studies have shown that the number of men and women with Alzheimer's disease are expected to triple in the next 40 years, increasing to 13.8 million from the 4.7 million in 2010. "The desensitisation could play a role in the development of neurodegenerative disorders as insulin is a growth factor with neuroprotective properties".