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New clues in the link between Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes

April 8, 2016
by Nicole Stempak, Senior Editor
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Alzheimer’s disease might cause diabetes, not the other way around, according to a forthcoming study in the journal "Alzheimer's and Dementia."

Researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Health System found that Alzheimer’s disease impairs the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that regulates metabolism, meaning a person with memory loss more likely to develop diabetes.

Furthermore, the researchers also found an increase of group branched chain amino acids (BCAA) in the blood may serve as a biomarker of impaired brain insulin signaling. That could mean therapies to improve insulin signaling in the brain could reduce the chance someone with Alzheimer’s will develop diabetes.

"Our findings represent a turning point in the understanding of the relationship between Alzheimer’s disease, type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance," says Sam Gandy, MD, PhD, professor and associate director of Mount Sinai Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and co-author of the study in a press release. "Compelling and unexpected results … are driving a complete re-evaluation of how these diseases interact. Now that we have disease genes for dementia and diabetes, those genes are our ground zero, and the challenge is to work out all the steps and missteps between the gene and the patient and then to find interventions that cure those missteps."

The study was conducted in mice and was supported by the National Institute on Aging and the American Diabetes Association.


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