An experimental diabetes drug known as (Val8)GLP-1 could help combat the effects of Alzheimer’s disease, according to scientists who say the drug may be able to protect damaged brain cells and promote the growth of new ones.
The University of Ulster researchers tested the drug on healthy mice and examined its effects on the brain. (Val8)GLP-1 works by simulating the activity of the GLP-1 protein in the brain to help the body control its response to blood sugar.
The team found it entered the brain and promoted new cell growth in the hippocampus, which is the area involved in short and long-term memory.
In addition, they reported that blocking the effect of GLP-1 in the brains of the mice led to poorer performance in learning and memory tasks, while boosting it with the drug appeared to have no effect on behaviour. It also had no side-effects at the doses tested, they added.
The findings suggest that as well as its role in insulin signalling, GLP-1 may also be important for the production of new nerve cells in the brain.
“This could have huge implications for diseases like Alzheimers or Parkinson’s, where brain cells are lost,” study leader Professor Christian Holscher said.
“It is very encouraging that the experimental drug we tested, (Val8)GLP-1, entered the brain and our work suggests that GLP-1 could be a really important target for boosting memory,” he added.
The results of the study, which was supported by Alzheimer’s Research UK, were published in the journal Brain Research ahead of this Friday’s World Alzheimer’s Day.

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