Diabetes Drug May Reverse Alzheimer's

Monday, 16 Sep 2013 05:11 PM

By Nick Tate

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A commonly prescribed diabetes drug may have the potential to reverse some of the damage caused by Alzheimer's disease in the later stages of the condition.
 
In a new study funded by the Alzheimer's Society and published in the journal Neuropharmacology, Lancaster University researchers found the drug liraglutide may reverse memory loss and the build-up of plaques on the brain linked to the disease. Mice with late-stage Alzheimer's given the drug performed significantly better on an object recognition test and their brains showed a 30 percent reduction in the build-up of toxic plaques.

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Liraglutide — one of new class of drugs known as GLP-1 analogues — is used to stimulate insulin production in diabetes, but research shows it can also pass through the blood brain barrier and have a protective effect on brain cells.
 
The findings come as the Alzheimer's Society charity prepares to conduct clinical trials of the drug's effectiveness, as part of a program that aims to repurpose existing drugs as dementia treatments within the next five to 10 years.
 
"Developing new drugs from scratch can take 20 years and hundreds of millions of pounds," said Doug Brown, M.D., research and development director at the Alzheimer's Society. "We owe it to [dementia paitients] to do everything we can to accelerate the process. Our focus on repurposing existing drugs as dementia treatments is an incredibly exciting way of bringing new treatments closer.
 
"This exciting study suggests that one of these drugs can reverse the biological causes of Alzheimer's even in the late stages and demonstrates we're on the right track. We're now funding a major new trial to bring it closer to a position where it can be improving the lives of people with dementia."
 
Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia, has few effective treatments and no cure. If successful in clinical trials liraglutide would be the first new dementia treatment in a decade.

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