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Study: Insulin Protects Against Alzheimer's

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Tuesday, February 03, 2009 10:35 PM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: FDA and Prescription Drugs, Alzheimer's Disease, Dementia, Insulin, Memory Loss, Avandia


IMAGE SOURCE: © iStockPhoto / close up render of neuron brain cell / author: Henrik5000

Insulin has the ability to protect the brain from harmful proteins associated with Alzheimer’s, a new study says.

Researchers at Northwestern University treated nerve cells from the hippocampus, a region of the brain where memories are stored, with insulin and Avandia, a drug used to treat type 2 diabetes.

They found that insulin protected the cells from clusters of toxic proteins called amyloid beta-derived diffusible ligands or ADDLs, proteins that are known to attach to and block memory-forming synapses, which lead to memory loss.

The discovery that insulin may slow or prevent Alzheimer’s-related memory loss supports previous findings that the disease may be caused by a third type of diabetes.

“Recognizing that Alzheimer’s disease is a type of brain diabetes paves the way to novel discoveries that may lead to disease-modifying treatments for this devastating disease,” William Klein of Northwestern University said.

For the study, researchers treated rat nerve cells with insulin. "It blocked all of the effects of ADDLs," Klein said. The effect was magnified when they added the drug rosiglitazone.

Several studies have found that diabetics have a greater risk of getting Alzheimer's than the general population. The latest study is published online in February 2 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

It’s expected that five million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, (26 million globally) but that number is expected to triple over the next few decades. Because of that there is an accelerated worldwide effort to treat the disease. More than 95% of what we know today has been learned over the last 15 years, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Another recent study found maintaining normal blood sugar levels as we age may protect against diabetes and prevent age-related memory loss.

Spikes in blood sugar levels can take a toll on memory by affecting the dentate gyrus, a region of the brain within the hippocampus where memories are stored. #

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