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Diabetes drugs show potential in treating Alzheimer’s

Published on 03/01/18 at 08:27am

A group of researchers at Lancaster University have identified a drug currently used to treat type 2 diabetes that has shown potential benefit in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

Though the study was only conducted in mice, there is such a dearth of positive news on the development of treatments for Alzheimer’s it has been warmly welcomed.

The treatment actually combined three older diabetes drugs to create a “triple agonist”, which combines GLP-1, GIP and glucagon. The belief being that boosting levels of growth hormones will aid in protecting the brain against the neurodegenerative impacts of Alzheimer’s.

Lead researcher Professor Christian Holscher of Lancaster University said: “These very promising outcomes demonstrate the efficacy of these novel multiple receptor drugs that originally were developed to treat type 2 diabetes but have shown consistent neuro- protective effects in several studies. Clinical studies with an older version of this drug type already showed very promising results in people with Alzheimer's disease or with mood disorders”.

In the most recent research, it was found that mice treated with the triple-combination drug showed enhanced levels of a brain growth factor that protects nerve cell functioning. It was also found to reduce the amount of amyloid plaques in the brain, which has long been a target in the pharmaceutical industry as the build-up of the protein has long been associated with Alzheimer’s.

Beyond this, the drug was also able to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, and slowed down the rate of nerve cell loss.

Dr Doug Brown, Director of Research and Development at Alzheimer's Society, explained the importance of the research: “With no new treatments in nearly 15 years, we need to find new ways of tackling Alzheimer's. It's imperative that we explore whether drugs developed to treat other conditions can benefit people with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. This approach to research could make it much quicker to get promising new drugs to the people who need them.”

The next step for research will be to progress the findings beyond mouse studies to determine whether there are positive impacts within people. As Holscher mentions, previous studies have already shown potential with older treatments and there is hope that the same will be observed again in humans.

Ben Hargreaves

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