A drug developed to help diabetes shows that it can help reverse the effects of Alzheimer’s — at least in mice.
The breakthrough, published this week in the journal Brain Research, shows a “clear promise of being developed into a new treatment for chronic neurodegenerative disorders” like Alzheimer’s, the researchers wrote in the report.
The drug is a triple receptor of GLP-1, GIP and Glucagon, three biological molecules known as “growth factors” that help improve insulin sensitivity in people with diabetes. People with Alzheimer’s have reduced amounts of these growth factors in their brains.
For the study, researchers led by Christian Holscher at Lancaster University in the U.K. implanted mice with mutated human genes that carry a hereditary form of Alzheimer’s. They then let the mice age for a couple of months so they would develop brain damage. The researchers then gave the drug to the mice and put them through a maze.
The result? The showed a marked improvement in memory function and learning capabilities.
“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,” Holscher said in a press release.
One in 10 Americans over age 65 show signs of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, and is the sixth leading cause of death — but not for lack of trying to find a cure.
“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,” Doug Brown, Director of Research and Development at Alzheimer’s Society, said in the study’s press release.
Further research on humans needs to happen before the diabetes medication can be used for Alzheimer’s, but they’re hopeful since Type II diabetes is known as an early indicator of the degenerative brain disease.
“This approach to research could make it much quicker to get promising new drugs to the people who need them,” added Brown.