Diabetes linked to early signs of Alzheimer's

The link between diabetes and Alzheimer's has been a hot topic in the news this year.

Food writer Mark Bittman made the subject popular when he wrote an article outlining how insulin resistance is a common root for both conditions.

Now, however, researchers have a little more hard evidence. In a recent study appearing in Aging Cell, scientists discovered that diabetes may actually predispose a person to showing early signs of Alzheimer's.

The role of brain proteins

The link has to do with specific proteins in the brain which cause Alzheimer's when they clump together. These proteins, amyloid beta and tau, were found to be significantly more aggregated in the brains of diabetic mice.

"Our study supports and extends the links between diabetes, aging and Alzheimer's," said Pamela Maher, senior author of the study. "We show that type 1 diabetes increases vascular-associated amyloid beta buildup in the brain and causes accelerated brain aging."

Astrocytes and nerve cells

While the researchers aren't sure exactly why the increase in brain proteins occurs in diabetic mice, they suggest that it has to do with the bonding of proteins with sugar molecules, as well as changes in astrocytes.

"Astrocytes play a key role in maintaining nerve cells in the brain," said Antonio Currais, lead study author.

"Both chronic peripheral inflammation and increased non-enzymatic glycation are associated with diabetes, and these changes may act on the brain to alter astrocyte function, which eventually leads to Alzheimer's-like changes."

The study sheds new light how how targeting the neuro-vascular system might be useful in coming up with early-stage Alzheimer's treatments.

According to Science Daily, Alzheimer's affects one in 10 Americans over the age of 65 and about half of people over 85.

Source: Science Daily

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