Biological link between high blood sugar and Alzheimer’s disease identified

Research published today, Thursday 23 February, in the journal Scientific Reports sheds new light on the biological links between dementia and high blood sugar, a common symptom of diabetes.

Researchers at University of Bath compared brain samples of 30 people with and without Alzheimer’s disease and tested them for protein glycation, a modification caused by high glucose levels in the blood.

The team found that a particular enzyme was glycated in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease and that glycation stopped the enzyme from working properly. The enzyme, known as ‘macrophage migration inhibitory factor’ or MIF, has been previously implicated in the inflammatory response that occurs in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr Clare Walton, Research Manager at Alzheimer’s Society said:

'We know that diabetes can double a person’s risk of developing dementia but we still don’t really understand how the two conditions are linked - this study offers a vital clue. The researchers have found a specific effect of high blood glucose on an enzyme in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s, providing a plausible biological mechanism connecting the two conditions.'

'With diabetes on the rise, a better understanding of how it affects brain cells can help us to find ways to help people with diabetes manage their risk of dementia. Alzheimer’s Society is currently funding a clinical trial to see whether a diabetes drug can be used as a dementia treatment.'

Find out about more about our trial for a diabetes drug in people with early stage Alzheimer’s disease.