The so-called 'triple receptor drug,' created to treat the metabolic disorder, has also "significantly reduced memory loss" in testing on mice, according to researchers.
Alzheimer's, the common dementia-related illness, is believed to be caused by the accumulation of a pathogenic substance known as amyloid beta plaque in the brain's neurons. Formed from the leftovers of APP proteins, charged with the repair of damaged neurons and the formation of bonds between them, the plaques destroy nerve cells when the processing of the molecules of the APP proteins is disturbed.
Over the last two years, biologists have made significant progress in their understanding of what causes Alzheimer's. For his part, Dr. Holscher and his colleagues have been investigating the connections between Alzheimer's, type 2 diabetes, and other metabolic diseases. While a clear correlation remains to be discovered, the researchers did notice that elderly people suffering from insulin immunity are also likely to become diagnosed with Alzheimer's.
This observation led biologists to hypothesize that medications which effectively inhibit type 2 diabetes can be equally helpful in improving brain function for Alzheimer's patients.
Dr. Holscher and his colleagues added the medicine to the food of mice whose DNA included the damaged version of the APP gene. Testing showed that mice given the drug not only suffered less from diabetes, but also experienced fewer problems with memory, resulting in dramatically improved maze test learning and memory formation. The mice brains were also showed to have significantly lower concentrations of amyloid beta plaques than those of untreated mice, and only two-three times more than healthy ones.
The next step for the University of Lancashire researchers will be to prove the drug's effectiveness in increased doses, and confirm that it is safe for human clinical trials. Their study has been published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Brain Research.
An estimated 47 million people worldwide suffer from dimentia, and researchers estimate that that figure could climb to up to 115 million by 2050.