Diabetes link discovered

From the summer 2017 issue of our Care and Cure magazine, find out about brain changes which reveal a mechanism that could link diabetes and dementia.

Research has shown that diabetes can increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia, but we don’t fully understand how and why these conditions are linked. A new study from the University of Bath has found a relationship between high glucose levels and Alzheimer’s, which helps to explain this link.

The study used human brain tissue that had been donated through Brains for Dementia Research, and was published in the journal Scientific Reports. Researchers compared brain tissue from 30 people with and without Alzheimer’s disease. They tested whether proteins had been altered by a process called glycation, which is caused by high blood sugar.

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

Dr Clare Walton, Research Communications Manager at Alzheimer’s Society, said, ‘With diabetes on the rise, a better understanding of how it affects brain cells can help us to find ways for people with diabetes to manage their risk of dementia.’

Alzheimer’s Society is funding a clinical trial to see whether a diabetes drug can be used as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. This involves carrying out brain scans to see if the drug prevents damage to the brain and will assess whether the drug prevents memory loss.

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