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Unraveling The Diabetes-Dementia Relationship

November 11, 2009

Research led by Douglas Ishii, a professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at Colorado State University has demonstrated that low levels of both insulin and insulin-like growth factors (IGF) bring about the loss of cells and increase the risk of brain shrinkage that can lead to dementia. The study, published in the November 25 2009 issue of the journal Brain Research, demonstrates that the cell loss in the brains of adult rats with diabetes could be prevented with an infusion of both insulin and protein based IGF, which supports various activities within the central nervous system. These findings may ultimately lead to developing a treatment that prevents brain shrinkage and the progression of dementia—in order words slowing, stopping or reversing conditions such as Alzheimer’s. (The current drugs available to slow Alzheimer’s now have only limited effects because they don’t cross the blood-brain barrier, which prevents substances in the blood from spreading freely into the brain.) The team’s findings will also advance understanding of the diabetes-Alzheimer’s connection — nearly 80 percent of Alzheimer’s patients have a history of diabetes or pre-diabetes, and by the same token diabetics are at a higher risk of developing dementia.