A new study by a team of researchers from the Salk Institute could explain the possible connection between diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers said that the data is compelling, but they have not been able to explain how diabetes could affect cognitive processes. However, they now have a much better understanding of the possible relationship than before.
The study does show that diabetes accelerates the aging process, which appears to increase the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s The researchers studied the brains of two groups of mice that were afflicted with diabetes. They both came from the same gene pool, but one group aged normally while the other aged at a more accelerated pace. Researchers infected each group of mice with type 1 diabetes and observed changes in their brains. Other mouse studies created artificial human proteins. However, Maher’s team allowed all proteins to develop on their own so they could understand how the interactions played out naturally.
The study found that both groups of mice aged more quickly after being infected with diabetes. This could indicate that humans predisposed to Alzheimer’s disease would experience a worsened condition of the disease if they also suffered from diabetes.
They made two key observations that have never been observed before: both amyloid beta and tau protein-in increased significantly in specific brain cells within the mice.
Excessive levels of amyloid beta can cause neural connections to become inflamed. Previous studies have found that this can kill neurons. Lead author Pamela Maher said this finding help explain the noted link between diabetes and Alzheimer’s.
If Maher’s findings can be confirmed, physicians may start encouraging diabetic patients to undergo screenings of their neurovascular systems. This could help them identify possible abnormalities which could lead to Alzheimer’s disease in the future. The research could also help them identify possible treatments for patients in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
The medical community realizes that it is becoming increasingly urgent. The prevalence of both diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease in the United States have increased considerably over the past few years. Approximately 10% of Americans over the age of 65 suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. Nearly 10% of Americans also suffer from diabetes.
[box type="note"]Maher and the other researchers are not sure how diabetes causes amyloid beta and tau-in proteins to increase. Thy have raised several theories that could explain the condition. One possibility is that the conditions can cause a breakdown in many processes that regulate inflammation in the brain. Another factor that could play a role is the fact that diabetes can limit brain cell’s abilities to bind with sugar molecules.[/box]