We May Have Just Found the Cure for Alzheimer's by Accident

Wednesday, 03 January 2018 - 11:10AM
Wednesday, 03 January 2018 - 11:10AM
We May Have Just Found the Cure for Alzheimer's by Accident
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Image credit: Unsplash
Some of the greatest scientific discoveries of all time have been made by accident and this is no different. 

While studying the effects of a newly developed type 2 diabetes drug on mice, researchers in the UK discovered that it "significantly reversed the memory deficit" in test subjects made to complete a water maze test. 

"Epidemiological studies have shown that type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) is a risk factor for Alzheimer disease," wrote the researchers in an article published in the journal Brain Research.

"The underlying mechanism is most likely that insulin signaling is impaired in the brains of AD patients. This motivated research in drugs that have shown good effects in treating diabetes to investigate if they could be helpful in treating AD as well."

Building on previous studies of GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide-1), GIP (glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide), and Gcg (glucagol) hormones and the neuroprotective roles they play in the brain, the researchers tested a drug that activates all three at the same time (TA, or triple receptor agonist).

For the AD mice, the TA drug "improved learning and memory impairment."

It also reduced amyloid plaque load, chronic inflammation, and oxidative stress, while increasing neurogenesis (the "formation of new neurons from neural stem and progenitor cells"), brain-derived neurotrophic factor expression, and synapse numbers in the brain.

According to lead researcher Professor Christian Holscher of Lancaster University in the UK, the drug administered in the experiments "holds clear promise of being developed into a new treatment for chronic neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease," even though the benefits of TA drugs have only been seen in mice so far. 

"With no new treatments in nearly 15 years, we need to find new ways of tackling Alzheimer's," said the Alzheimer's Society's Director of Research and Development, Dr. Doug Brown.

"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."