London | Drugs used to treat diabetes could also be used to cure Alzheimer’s disease, a new pioneering study has claimed. This is also the first study of its kind to show that Alzheimer’s disease can lead to diabetes, as opposed to diabetes occurring first as was previously thought, according to researchers from University of Aberdeen in the UK.
They found that Alzheimer’s Disease and type 2 diabetes are so closely related that drugs currently used to control glucose levels in diabetes may also alleviate the symptoms and progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers found for the first time that dementia-related complications within the brain can also lead to changes in glucose handling and ultimately diabetes.
This is contrary to what was previously thought – that diabetes begins with a malfunction in the pancreas or a high fat, high sugar diet. Researchers were keen to investigate why the two diseases are so commonly found together in elderly patients. They developed a model of Alzheimer’s disease and found that increased levels of a gene involved in the production of toxic proteins in the brain not only led to Alzheimer’s-like symptoms, but also to the development of diabetic complications.
Many people are unaware of the relationship between diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease, but the fact is that around 80 per cent of people with Alzheimer’s disease also have some form of diabetes or disturbed glucose metabolism, said Bettina Platt from University of Aberdeen. Until now, we always assumed that obese people get type 2 diabetes and then are more likely to get dementia – we now show that actually it also works the other way around, said Platt.
Additionally, it was previously believed that diabetes starts in the periphery, that is the pancreas and liver, often due to consumption of an unhealthy diet, but here we show that dysregulation in the brain can equally lead to development of very severe diabetes – so again showing that diabetes does not necessarily have to start with your body getting fat – it can start with changes in the brain, she added.