A type 2 diabetes drug could be used to help treat conditions which are related to the brain, researchers say.
Scientists from the University of Birmingham team have discovered that the glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist exendin-4 can help relieve brain pressure, which can sometimes develop during a traumatic brain injury.
A trial looking at the effects of the drug on animals also found the treatment can ease a condition caused by brain pressure called Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (IIH).
“Our findings show that exendin-4 reduces brain pressure within 10 minutes of dosing and by 44 per cent, which is a greater extent than anything else we’ve tested before, and the treatment effects last at least 24 hours,” said corresponding author Dr Alexandra Sinclair.
Sinclair and colleagues found that exendin-4, a type 2 diabetes drug which helps to lower blood glucose levels, reduced intracranial pressure in an animal model “both rapidly and dramatically”.
GLP-1 receptor agonists work by stimulating insulin in response to meals, reducing the release of glucagon, the hormone that raises blood sugar, and slowing down digestion.
Obesity can very often be the cause of IIH and because GLP-1 agonists trigger weight loss in people, this new treatment method could be extremely beneficial.
Sinclair added: “These findings are rapidly translatable into a new novel treatment strategy for IIH as GLP-1 agonists are safe and widely-used drugs used to treat diabetes and obesity. They are also potentially game-changing for other conditions featuring raised brain pressure, including stroke, hydrocephalus and traumatic brain injury.
“We are very excited that this novel treatment strategy could make a landmark change for future patient care.”
There are now plans afoot for the team to move “forward rapidly” in testing the drug in more clinical trials.
The findings will be unveiled next month in Vancouver at the International Headache Society Meeting. They will also present the research at the British Endocrine Society meeting in the UK in November.

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