A type 2 diabetes drug has been found to help reverse memory loss and could be used to treat Alzheimer’s disease in the future, researchers have said.
Liraglutide, marketed as Victoza and Saxenda, was shown by researchers at Lancaster University to play a part in reducing brain degeneration which occurs in Alzheimer’s disease.
The type 2 diabetes drug helps to lower blood sugar levels by stimulating insulin secretion and lowering production of glucagon. Liraglutide also helps to slow down gut absorption and reduce appetite.
Lead researcher Professor Christian Holscher of Lancaster University and colleagues investigated a combination of a glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1), gastric inhibitory polypeptide (GIP) and glucagon on mice, to see how it affected their memory. The GLP-1 drug used was liraglutide.
Daily injections were administered for two months. The movements and memory of the mice were measured from their participation in a maze. Over time their performance in the maze showed significant improvements, suggesting the treatment of drugs improved memory function.
The researchers also found the treated mice lost nerve cells at a slower pace and had reduced nerve inflammation.
Prof Holscher said the discovery “holds clear promise of being developed into a new treatment for chronic neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease”.
“Here we show that a novel triple receptor drug shows promise as a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s but further dose-response tests and direct comparisons with other drugs have to be conducted in order to evaluate if this new drugs is superior to previous ones,” he added.
Type 2 diabetes is a known risk factor for Alzhemier’s disease and the role of insulin has previously been linked to the degeneration of the brain.
It is thought there are half a million people living with the condition, the most common form of dementia, but the Alzheimer’s Society said it expects that number to rise to two million by 2051.
Dr Doug Brow, director of research and development at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “With no new treatments in nearly 15 years, we need to find new ways of tackling Alzheimer’s. It’s imperative that we explore whether drugs developed to treat other conditions can benefit people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
“This approach to research could make it much quicker to get promising new drugs to the people who need them.”
The findings have been pubished in the Brain Research journal.

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