A chemist from Israel believes she is closing in on a groundbreaking discovery to understand links between type 2 diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinsons disease (PD) and Alzheimers disease (AD).
Yifat Miller and her PhD student, Yoav Atsmon-Raz, conducted research at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheva, revealing the atomic structure of a brain protein fragment called non-amyloid beta component (NAC).
Miller’s research found that when NAC clumps together it is known to trigger PD. Similarly, an endocrine hormone called amylin also clumps together, which leads it to harm insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. This then leads to type 2 diabetes.
Amylin is also found in the brain, with studies linking this clumping to AD and the death of neurons. This mechanism, Miller believes, could explain why type 2 diabetics face twice the normal risk of developing AD.
Preventing Parkinson’s
Miller also investigated why people with type 2 diabetes have a higher risk for developing PD as well as AD. Her study lasted three years, which involved using sophisticated computer simulations. The findings were then confirmed through experiments.
Miller’s findings backed up her hypothesis that amylin can interact with NAC, and she believes that her results could lead to preventative measures to stop this synergy in the brain.
“Publishing our results will allow other scientists to use this information to learn more about Parkinson’s, its mechanisms and possible drugs to reduce aggregatio,” Miller said.
“Now, one could develop a drug to prevent this interaction so the risk of diabetes will not lead to the risk of Parkinson’s”.

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