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Diabetes Watch Blog: Is Alzheimer's disease Related To Diabetes?

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Dec 1, 2005

Is Alzheimer's disease Related To Diabetes?

Is Alzheimer's disease Related To Diabetes?
That's the million-dollar question the researchers are trying to answer. A new study suggests insulin production in the brain declines as Alzheimer's disease advances.

"Insulin disappears early and dramatically in Alzheimer's disease," senior researcher Suzanne M. de la Monte, a neuropathologist at Rhode Island Hospital and a professor of pathology at Brown University Medical School, said in a prepared statement.

"And many of the unexplained features of Alzheimer's, such as cell death and tangles in the brain, appear to be linked to abnormalities in insulin signaling. This demonstrates that the disease is most likely a neuroendocrine disorder, or another type of diabetes," she added.

The discovery that the brain produces insulin at all is a recent one, and de la Monte and his colleagues also found that brain insulin produced by patients with Alzheimer's disease tends to fall below normal levels.

Now her group has discovered that brain levels of insulin and its related cellular receptors fall precipitously during the early stages of Alzheimer's. Insulin levels continue to drop progressively as the disease becomes more severe thus adding to evidence that Alzheimer's might be a new form of diabetes, she said.

In addition, the Brown University team found that low levels of acetylcholine which is a hallmark of Alzheimer', are directly linked to this loss of insulin and insulin-like growth factor function in the brain.

The report appears in the November issue of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

"In the most advanced stage of Alzheimer's, insulin receptors were nearly 80 percent lower than in a normal brain," de la Monte said.

In addition, the researchers found two abnormalities related to insulin in Alzheimer's. First, levels of insulin dropped as the disease progressed. Second, insulin and its related protein called insulin-related growth factor-I, lose the ability to bind to cell receptors. This creates a resistance to the insulin growth factors, causing the cells to malfunction and die.

JoAnn      Return to Diabetes Blog Main


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Type-2 Diabetes
Type-2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, accounting for 90% of cases diabetes. This disease affects nearly 17 million Americans and is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. Even though 17 million Americans have type-2 diabetes only half of these people are aware that they have diabetes. The death rate in patients with diabetes may be up to 11 times higher than in persons without the disease. The occurrence of diabetes in persons 45 to 64 years of age is 7 percent, but the proportion increases significantly in persons 65 years of age or older. Type-2 diabetes accounts for more than 90% of all diabetes worldwide.

Diabetes Watch Blog: Is Alzheimer's disease Related To Diabetes?

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