Memory loss in patients with Alzheimers disease could be reversed using a common diabetes drug, a new British-led study has revealed.
Researchers from Lancaster University found that the type 2 diabetes medication, liraglutide, can reverse symptoms of late stage Alzheimer’s in mice and also prevent the build-up of toxic plaques on the brain that contribute to the disease’s development.
Lead researcher Professor Christian Hölscher and colleagues tested the injectable anti-diabetic drug on the brains of 14 month-old mice who were suffering from late stage Alzheimer’s disease.
They found that the condition improved considerably after just two months of liraglutide treatment, with the mice performing significantly better on object recognition tests and their brains showing a 30% decline in the build-up of destructive plaques.
Prof Hölscher explained that as well as helping to stimulate insulin production in patients with type 2 diabetes, the GLP-1 (Glucagon-like peptide-1) analogue can also pass through the blood brain barrier. This helps stops toxins from entering the brain, and thus protects brain cells (neurons) from damage.
To see if liraglutide has the same effects on Alzheimer’s patients, the Alzheimer’s Society has agreed to jointly fund a £5million clinical trial of the drug as a part of the next phase of its Drug Discovery program, which aims to identify and repurpose existing medications as dementia treatments.
Doug Brow, the charity’s director of research and development, said: “This exciting study suggests that one of these drugs can reverse the biological causes of Alzheimer’s even in the late stages and demonstrates we’re on the right track. We’re now funding a major new trial to bring it closer to a position where it can be improving the lives of people with dementia.”
Led by Dr Paul Edison of Imperial College London, the first-of-its-kind trial will measure neuronal activity in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients to give scientists the “first impression” of how effective it is at protecting the human brain from neurodegeneration.

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