Insulin's potential to treat dementia outlined in new study

August 4, 2015 by Bobbi Nodell
Credit: ThinkStock/University of Washington

Researchers at the UW Medicine, Veteran's Administration Puget Sound and Saint Louis University have made a promising discovery that insulin delivered high up in the nasal cavity goes to affected areas of brain with lasting results in improving memory.

The findings were published online July 30 in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

"Before this study, there was very little evidence of how insulin gets into the brain and where it goes," said William Banks, UW professor of internal medicine and geriatrics, VA Puget Sound physician and the principal investigator of the study. "We showed that insulin goes to areas where we hoped it would go."

Importantly, researchers also found that insulin does not go into the bloodstream when delivered intranasally, a major concern in the medical community because it would lower . Additionally, repeated doses increased insulin's efficacy in aiding memory.

"This is one of those studies where everything is coming together," Banks said of the potential of gastrointestinal hormones like insulin to help those suffering from diseases like Alzheimer's that affect memory function.

The study was funded through a $500,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Researchers on this study used a mouse model developed in the early 1990s that is normal when young but by "mouse middle age" (8-12 months) has severe learning and memory problems. In the object recognition test, a test that depends on the mouse's natural curiosity for new things, old mice do not remember whether objects they are presented to play with are new or old. After a single dose of intranasal insulin, however, they can remember which objects they have seen before.

The researchers noted that Alzheimer's disease and other, similar forms of dementia have become one of the most severe socioeconomic and medical burdens impacting modern society. They said an estimated 44 million people worldwide suffer from Alzheimer's or other dementia and, with the aging population, this number is expected to double by 2030.

William A. Banks is a University of Washington professor of internal medicine and geriatrics, VA Puget Sound physician and the principal investigator of the study. Credit: William A. Banks

Researchers estimate that there are at least 800 trials being conducted by the NIH on Alzheimer's; however, few are looking at and other gastrointestinal hormones and how they affect cognition. Banks said there are probably 100 intranasal compounds that could be tested for treating Alzheimer's, a promising development in future treatment of the disease.

When discussing whether or not a breakthrough in Alzheimer's treatment is possible, Banks looked to the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the progress that has been made since then. He noted that Alzheimer's and HIV/AIDS came into the scientific spotlight at about the same time (the 1980s) but that 10 times the amount of money was spent on HIV/AIDS: While there is still no cure, people with HIV/AIDS have access to lifesaving drugs, demonstrating that medical research can turn devastating diseases into manageable ones.

"If we put similar resources into Alzheimer's disease," he said, "we could be equally effective."

Explore further: Insulin resistance increases risk for Alzheimer's disease, study finds

More information: Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, … rs-disease/jad150307

Related Stories

Insulin resistance increases risk for Alzheimer's disease, study finds

July 27, 2015
The fact that obesity increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and some cancers is well known. But a new Iowa State University study adds to the growing evidence that memory loss should also be a top concern.

Insulin nasal spray shows promise as treatment for adults with dementia and Alzheimer's

January 8, 2015
A man-made form of insulin delivered by nasal spray may improve working memory and other mental capabilities in adults with mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease dementia, according to a pilot study led by researchers ...

Alzheimer's may affect the brain differently in African-Americans than European-Americans

July 15, 2015
Alzheimer's disease may cause different changes in the brain, or pathologies, in African-Americans than in white Americans of European descent, according to a study published in the July 15, 2015, online issue of the medical ...

New evidence links Alzheimer's disease and diabetes

March 20, 2012
An emerging body of research suggests that Alzheimer's disease may be linked to insulin resistance, constituting a third type of diabetes. This model is based on several observations including an increased risk of developing ...

Researchers find direct link between insulin resistance and behavioral disorders

March 2, 2015
People with diabetes are more prone to anxiety and depression than those with other chronic diseases that require similar levels of management. The reasons for this aren't well understood, but Joslin Diabetes Center researchers ...

Memory, thinking tests may hint at Alzheimer's risk

June 24, 2015
(HealthDay)—Mistakes made on memory and thinking tests may be early warning signs of Alzheimer's disease, researchers report.

Recommended for you

Thinking 'out-of-the-box' may build a better brain and prevent dementia

September 25, 2017
More than 5 million Americans today are affected by Alzheimer's disease (AD). If nothing is done to stop this upward trajectory, there will be more than 16 million people with AD in the United States and more than 60 million ...

Multi-gene test predicts Alzheimer's better than APOE E4 alone

September 22, 2017
A new test that combines the effects of more than two dozen genetic variants, most associated by themselves with only a small risk of Alzheimer's disease, does a better job of predicting which cognitively normal older adults ...

Personality changes don't precede clinical onset of Alzheimer's, study shows

September 21, 2017
For years, scientists and physicians have been debating whether personality and behavior changes might appear prior to the onset of Alzheimer's disease and related dementias.

Newly ID'd role of major Alzheimer's gene suggests possible therapeutic target

September 20, 2017
Nearly a quarter century ago, a genetic variant known as ApoE4 was identified as a major risk factor for Alzheimer's disease—one that increases a person's chances of developing the neurodegenerative disease by up to 12 ...

Is the Alzheimer's gene the ring leader or the sidekick?

September 15, 2017
The notorious genetic marker of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia, ApoE4, may not be a lone wolf.

Potential noninvasive test for Alzheimer's disease

September 6, 2017
In the largest and most conclusive study of its kind, researchers have analysed blood samples to create a novel and non-invasive way of helping to diagnose Alzheimer's disease and distinguishing between different types of ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.