Type 2 Diabetes Linked With Alzheimer’s Disease

Scientists have established an association between type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers.

AsianScientist (Sep. 14, 2015) – Type 2 diabetes may be associated with brain changes that occur in Alzheimer’s disease according to a study published in Neurology.

As the population ages in the developed world, diseases such as type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease are on the rise. Recently, there have been plenty of studies showing a having type 2 diabetes increases the chance of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

“People with type 2 diabetes have approximately double the risk of developing dementia,” said last author Associate Professor Velandai Srikanth, Director of the Stroke at Ageing Research Group at Monash University.

However, these studies were correlative in nature and lack mechanistic insight into this phenomenon.

To address this problem, a collaborative study between Monash University, University of Western Australia and University of Tasmania investigated if type 2 diabetes influences neurodegeneration in a way that is similar to Alzheimer’s disease.

They approached this problem by performing brain scans for brain volume, and assessed biomarker levels for Alzheimer’s disease, in elderly people with or without type 2 diabetes. They observed that people with diabetes had greater levels of a protein called Tau in their spinal and brain fluid.

“For the first time, we’ve shown that type 2 diabetes is associated with increased in vivo levels of a biomarker [Tau] also found in Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Chris Moran, geriatrician and first author of the paper. “Greater levels of tau in spinal fluid may reflect a build-up of ‘tangles’ within nerve cells in the brain.”

“The presence of such tangles may interfere with critical functions of the nerve cells, causing them to die. Significantly, this nerve cell loss leads to the memory and cognitive problems similar to those found in dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease. Such tangles are also found in the brains of people who have suffered from Alzheimer’s disease dementia,” explained Moran.

Moreover, they also found that there was an association between diabetes and thinner frontal and parietal cortex, parts of the brain that are involved in cognition.

“Nerve cells in the brain do not easily replace themselves, so it is extremely important to find ways to reduce the risk of death of current brain cells,” added Srikanth.

“With this discovery, we’re beginning to recognise that there are common mechanistic pathways that overlap with diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease,” said Moran.

Their finding advances our understanding of the co-morbidity between Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes. This mechanistic understanding provides novel targets for future Alzheimer’s disease treatment and prevention.

The article can be found at: Moran et al. (2015) Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus and Biomarkers of Neurodegeneration.


Source: Monash University; Photo: Vince Alongi/Flickr/CC.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

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