Researchers have found further evidence of a link between Alzheimers disease and diabetes.
The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigatio, clearly indicated that the onset of Alzheimer’s disease could be affected by high blood glucose levels.
Diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease
The possible link between diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease has long been of interest, with some commentators suggesting that Alzheimer’s disease could accurately be termed “type 3 diabetes.”
This research takes the link one step further, as researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis discovering that high blood glucose levels quickly increases levels of amyloid beta, which can be found in the brain plaques of Alzheimer’s patients. The development of plaques in the brain is a key trigger in the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
The study
The study was conducted by adding glucose to the bloodstreams of mice genetically engineered to have a condition similar to Alzheimer’s disease. As a result, the amyloid beta levels in the mice without brain plaques rose by 20 per cent. In mice with brain plaques, the amyloid beta levels increased by 40 per cent.
Then the researchers looked closer, and they found that blood glucose spikes increased neuron activity in the brain, and that stimulated the increased production of amyloid beta. This kind of neuron activity is often triggered through KATP channels on the surface of brain cells. When the researchers increased blood glucose levels, the KATP channels closed, which makes the activity of brain cells increase.
What do these findings mean?
Shannon Macauley, PhD, and lead author of the study, said: “Our results suggest that diabetes, or other conditions that make it hard to control blood sugar levels, can have harmful effects on brain function and exacerbate neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.
“The link we’ve discovered could lead us to future treatment targets that reduce these effects.
“Given that KATP channels are the way by which the pancreas secretes insulin in response to high blood sugar levels, it is interesting that we see a link between the activity of these channels in the brain and amyloid beta production.
“This observation opens up a new avenue of exploration for how Alzheimer’s disease develops in the brain as well as offers a new therapeutic target for the treatment of this devastating neurologic disorder.”

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