A new study has found that a type 2 diabetes drug may protect the brain from Alzheimer’s-related damage. Conducted by scientists in the UK and China, the study works to better understand the link between diabetes and Alzheimer’s. 

The researchers measured how the memories of mice improved with the introduction of the drug, which is a “triple receptor agonist.” This kind of drug activating proteins that allow signals to enter brain cells. Professor Christian Holscher, from Lancaster University, was the lead researcher and called the outcomes of the study “very promising.” 

The mice, who underwent a maze testshowed improved learning and memory formation. Researchers also found:

  • Enhanced levels of a brain growth factor which protects nerve cell functioning
  • Reduced the number of amyloid plaques in the brain linked with Alzheimer’s
  • Reduced both chronic inflammation and oxidative stress
  • Slowed rate of nerve cell loss

Clinical trials in humans are also underway. If the drug produces the same results in humans, FDA approval will be required before it’s allowed on the market.

Diabetes and Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s is a neurodegenerative disease, progressing when abnormal proteins surround brain cells, and those cells lose connection with each other. The most common symptoms are declined cognitive function, memory loss, and irregular moods. It also accounts for 50 to 70 percent of dementia cases.

Mayo Clinic recently listed “poorly controlled type 2 diabetes” as a risk factor in developing Alzheimer’s. Reduction of blood flow to the brain leads to damaged blood vessels and, ultimately, reduced memory function. Though research on this link between diabetes and Alzheimer’s is ongoing, scientists are starting to zero in on the ways type 2 diabetes affects the body’s response to insulin.

There are currently an estimated 46.8 million people living with dementia across the globe, and no new treatments for Alzheimer’s have been developed in fifteen years.

This Lancaster University study is the first to show that a triple receptor agonist may protect against Alzheimer’s. Any steps taken toward stopping this fatal disease are welcome, as there is still no known prevention or cure.