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Scientists find new link between Diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease

Scientists from the University of Aberdeen have suggested that a drug that is normally used to treat diabetes could prove successful in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease too. Furthermore, drugs that are used to treat Alzheimer’s could also prove beneficial for people suffering from diabetes.

As a result of their study, the researchers have reported that Alzheimer’s Disease is so closely related to Type 2 diabetes that the drugs that are currently used to control the levels of glucose in people with diabetes, may also be able to alleviate the symptoms and progression of Alzheimer’s.

The researchers have put forward evidence to suggest that dementia-related complications within the brain may lead to changes in the way the body handles glucose, and that this may eventually cause diabetes. This finding is contrary to previous theories, in that diabetes begins when a malfunction occurs in the pancreas or as a result of a diet high in fat and sugar. This study is the first to show that Alzheimer’s can lead to diabetes, rather than diabetes occurring first as was previously thought.

The study came about as a result of a collaboration between two research teams: one focused on Alzheimer’s, the other on diabetes; who wanted to learn more about why the two diseases are found together in older people.  By developing a model of Alzheimer’s disease, they made a surprising discovery, in that an increased level of a specific gene which is known to play a part in the production of toxic proteins in the brain, not only led to symptoms found in Alzheimer’s, but that it also led to the development of complications normally associated with diabetes.

Although many people are unaware of the relationship between Alzheimer’s and diabetes, around 80% of people with Alzheimer’s also have some form of diabetes. As Alzheimer’s is rarely inherited, lifestyle factors must bear most of the blame.  Until now, researchers had believed that overweight and obese people who get type 2 diabetes are have a greater chance of developing dementia, however this research has shown that it’s actually the other way round and that dementia can lead to diabetes.

From their research, the teams were able to demonstrate that dysregulation in the brain can lead to severe diabetes, once again showing that the development of diabetes isn’t necessarily down to being overweight or obese. As a result of their findings, the researchers now believe that some of the compounds that are used to treat diabetes may also prove beneficial as a treatment for Alzheimer’s patients.

The study was published in the journal Diabetologia.

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