Posted by: kellydh | October 3, 2007

Alzheimers and Diabetes : linked?

I know this isn’t exactly linked to youth…but it’s still interesting.

Researchers at Northwestern University have found a possible link between Alzheimer’s and diabetes (namely, type 2 diabetes). Basically, the hypothesis is that the amyloid plaques that are correlated to the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease (namely dementia), are actually causing a new form of diabetes. These plaques are clumps of a toxic incorrectly cleaved protein that somehow inhibit neurons for correctly firing in the brain. The exact cellular action of this disease is not entirely known. So, these researchers now postulate that these plaques interrupt the insulin receptors in neurons that are required for correct synapse function.

As they put it, “We found the binding of ADDLs [the amyloid plaques] to synapses somehow prevents insulin receptors from accumulating at the synapses where they are needed,” said William L. Klein, professor of neurobiology and physiology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, who led the research team. “Instead, they are piling up where they are made, in the cell body, near the nucleus. Insulin cannot reach receptors there. This finding is the first molecular evidence as to why nerve cells should become insulin resistant in Alzheimer’s disease.”

This sounds very similar to some cases of Type 2 diabetes, where insulin cannot correctly interact with the insulin receptors of target cells.  In stead, in this case, the target cells are specifically neurons.  So, can we possibly use some already-made type 2 diabetes medications to treat Alzheimer’s disease?  And, what does this mean for people who already have type 2 diabetes – are they more likely to develop Alzheimer’s or will they be more receptive to new diabetes-based treatment?  hmmmm

The official press release from the lab is here at the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center website.

An interesting, and less technical article from Wired Science is here.

Assuming you have training in molecular biology or biochemistry, you can read the abstract for the article here at The FASEB Journal.



  1. Hey Kelly!

    Great article, in fact I had no idea about this research, an interesting read! In fact the linkage between synapse relay and the destruction of synapses last year by Canadian researches to develop diabetes in mice is phenomenal!

    Take Care!

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