There are hardly any effective remedies for Alzheimer’s progressing brain atrophy. But researchers could now have discovered a new, promising drug candidate – an agent that was originally developed for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. In mice, it not only slowed brain cell breakdown, it even reversed the memory loss. According to the researchers, this drug could also substantially improve Alzheimer’s therapy in humans.
Alzheimer’s is one of the most common neurodegenerative diseases worldwide. In Germany alone, around 1.3 million people are affected by progressive dementia – and the number is rising. However, there is little hope of cure for patients, as there is still no drug that can effectively stop the progressive loss of brain cells or reverse the associated memory loss.
Although there have already been some drug candidates that achieved hopeful results in animal experiments, many of them proved to be barely effective in humans. But thanks to new insights into the causes of the disease and new methods, there seems to be a little more hope now. After all, 35 promising drug candidates will be tested in clinical trials in the near future.
Diabetes drug in the test
Now Christian Hölscher of Lancaster University and his Chinese counterparts may have discovered another potentially effective remedy. It is not a completely new drug, but a drug that has already been developed and tested for the treatment of another disease: Type 2 diabetes. This drug, called a triple receptor agonist, targets three receptors simultaneously , which activate messengers for insulin and sugar metabolism. The growth factors GLP-1, GIP and glucagon have been suspected for some time, not only to counteract diabetes, but also to protect the brain.
“Clinical studies with older versions of this drug type have already shown very promising results in patients with Alzheimer’s and mental illness,” explains Hölscher. For their study, the researchers administered a daily dose of the drug to mice with a congenital form of Alzheimer’s for two months. Before and after treatment, all mice completed learning and memory tests in a labyrinth. In addition, scientists studied their brain metabolism, the amount of amyloid deposits in the brain as well as the breakdown and growth of neurons. The researchers also monitored the oxidative stress and inflammatory signs of the brain.
Reversed memory loss
It was found that while the mental performance of Alzheimer’s mice continued to decrease without treatment, the condition of the animals treated with the diabetes remedy improved significantly. The mice performed better in the labyrinth test than before and better than their untreated peers. Their learning ability also increased again.
“The treatment reversed the memory deficits in these mice,” the researchers report. They found that the agent had reduced the number of amyloid plaques in the animals’ brains and significantly reduced brain tissue degradation. At the same time, the amount of neuroprotective growth factors was significantly increased, as reported by Hölscher and his colleagues.
The signs of inflammation and oxidative stress in the cerebral cortex and hippocampus were also reduced by the therapy. “These very promising results demonstrate that such new multi-receptor diabetes drugs could also help with Alzheimer’s disease,” says Hölscher. Although the current tests have been performed on mice only, the researchers are confident that this and other similar drugs will work in humans and lead to new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases.
“We have shown that these new triple-receptor drugs could be promising candidates for new Alzheimer’s drugs,” says Hölscher. Although further tests have yet to follow to determine, inter alia, the appropriate dose. However, because this drug has been extensively tested for type 2 diabetes, fewer studies are needed than with completely new drugs – and that could shorten the time to first clinical trials with patients. In addition, some clinical studies are already in progress with substances that work in a similar way.