Researchers have found promising results in improving brain function by using insulin administered via the nose.
Type 2 diabetes which is characterised by insulin resistance and affects the body’s ability to respond properly to insulin, is associated with an increased risk of developing Alzheimers disease, a form of dementia. Research shows that Alzheimer’s develops when brain cells and nerves in the outer part of the brain start to die.
Researchers at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) were aware that taking insulin intranasally would allow the insulin to travel quickly to the brain without needing to cross the blood-brain barrier, a protective layer of cells which helps prevent toxins from damaging the brain.
The research team set out to assess whether taking insulin through the nose would have a positive effect on the cognitive ability (ability to think and reason) of patients with type 2 diabetes. The research involved 15 patients with type 2 diabetes and 14 healthy patients without the condition. The average age of participants was 62 years old.
The study participants took doses of either insulin or took a placebo in the form of saline. Tests were performed in each case to see how participants responded to learning and memory exercises. The researchers found that the subjects’ ability to learn and memorise was improved after receiving insulin in not just the group with type 2 diabetes, but also the group without the condition.
The study is a small one but has demonstrated promising findings. Success in larger scale studies will be required if intranasal insulin is to be adopted as a treatment option.
The participants took 40 units of an intranasal dose and this did not lead to hypoglycemia (low blood glucose levels).

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