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Alzheimer's, Dementia & Mental Health

Diabetes Drug Shows Promise in Reducing Alzheimer's, Restoring Memory in Test Mice

Potential as a test for diagnosis of AD and a therapy for the disease; improved learning and memory in tests

March 25, 2014 - Diabetic patients taking the drug, pramlintide, may be ahead of many of us in the battle against Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and preserving our memory. A new study found the synthetic version of amylin reduces amyloid-beta peptides, a major component of Alzheimer's in the brain. It also improves learning and memory, according to researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM).

Their findings, which appear online in Molecular Psychiatry, also found AD patients have a lower level of amylin in blood compared to those without this disease. These results may provide a new avenue for both treatment and diagnosis of AD.


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AD is a degenerative brain disease associated with severe functional decline and has no effective treatment. Currently there are 5 million people with Alzheimer's disease in the U.S. alone, and the cost of caring for these patients exceeds $100 billion per year. If no effective treatments are developed, the number of Alzheimer's patients is expected to grow to 14-16 million by the year 2050.

There are multiple reasons for the high costs and high failure rates associated with developing potential new drugs for AD. One factor is that most drugs do not penetrate into the brain making them ineffective for treating AD; another is that it usually takes 10-15 years to develop a new target drug to prove the safety and efficacy.

In contrast, some existing drugs for other diseases may penetrate into brain and may be effective for Alzheimer's disease, according to senior author Wendy Qiu, MD, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry, pharmacology and experimental therapeutics at BUSM.

"Unfortunately most pharmaceuticals are reluctant to support this type of repurposing research because of limited financial benefit and some patent limitation, even though the cost is much less expensive and the development time is much shortened," Qiu added.

Using AD models, the BUSM researchers investigated the effects of amylin on the pathogenesis of the disease.

"Surprisingly, injections of amylin or pramlintide into mice that had been genetically altered to have an Alzheimer's-like condition. reduced the amyloid burden as well as lowered the concentrations of amyloid-beta peptides (Aβ), a major component of AD in the brain," explained Qiu.

Pramlintide is an analog of a natural occurring peptide, amylin, produced by the pancreas. "It can easily cross the blood/brain barrier and has shown favorable safety profile for diabetes patients," she added.

The researcher suggests, therefore, that blood levels of beta-amyloid after an injection of amyloid may be a way to diagnose Alzheimer's disease.

According to the researchers, including lead author Haihao Zhu, MD, PhD, also from the department of pharmacology and experimental therapeutics at BUSM, these results argue for a therapeutic application of amylin-class peptides for AD.

Why is pramlintide prescribed? - MedlinePlus

Pramlintide is used with mealtime insulin to control blood sugar levels in people who have diabetes. Pramlintide is only used to treat patients whose blood sugar could not be controlled by insulin or insulin and an oral medication for diabetes. Pramlintide is in a class of medications called antihyperglycemics. It works by slowing the movement of food through the stomach. This prevents blood sugar from rising too high after a meal, and may decrease appetite and cause weight loss.

"There is broad agreement that more therapeutic avenues need to be explored in addition to targeting Aβ for the treatment of AD. Amylin-class drugs not only remove Aβ from the brain, as demonstrated by our study, but also can improve glucose metabolism and cerebrovasculature in the AD brain," said Qiu.

Based on their findings the researchers propose that amylin-class peptides have potential to become a new avenue as a challenge test for diagnosis of AD and as well as a therapeutic for the disease.

If the clinical trial proves the effect of pramlintide for Alzheimer's disease, Qiu believes this drug can be applied to Alzheimer's patients in only three to five years.

“Dr. Qiu and colleagues have proposed to test this idea in human volunteers known to have Alzheimer's disease as well as in healthy volunteers. They plan to inject a drug known as pramlintide into the blood stream and then determine if it leads to an increase in beta-amyloid levels in people who have Alzheimer's disease but not in healthy individuals,” according to the Alzheimer’s Association, which is helping fund further research.

“Pramlintide is a synthetic version of amylin and is already approved for use in humans. These studies could lay the groundwork for a possible blood test for Alzheimer's disease.”

This work was supported by grants from the National Institute on Aging, an Ignition Award and a BU ADC pilot grant.


Financial Relief for Volkswagen Diesel Owners

You may be eligible for money damages if you owned or leased one of these VW, Porsche or Audi vehicles.

In the major scandal of 2015, Volkswagen cheated you and the world. They rigged diesel emission controls so you, nor regulators, would know how much pollution their cars were adding to our environment.

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VW Beetle (2012–2015)

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Audi A3 (2010-2015)

VW Touareg (2009–2016)

Porsche Cayenne (2015)

Audi A6, A7, A8, Q5 Quattro (2016)


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