Published on: December 2, 2014
by Roger Dobson for The Daily Mail:
Scientists have developed an insulin nasal spray to tackle memory loss.
In a new trial, patients with a form of memory loss called mild cognitive impairment are using the spray twice a day.
This condition affects one in five older people and triggers problems with day-to-day memory, such as forgetting people’s names or losing your train of thought. In some cases, the condition can progress to Alzheimer’s disease. It is thought that brain cells need insulin to survive, and that a drop in levels can lead to brain cell damage.
The new trial, with 240 patients, follows research which shows that insulin not only reduces memory decline, but may slow the progression of Alzheimer’s. Furthermore, it is also known that poorly controlled diabetes can lead to memory loss.
In a year-long study led by doctors at Wake Forest University medical school in the U.S., patients with mild cognitive impairment or early-stage Alzheimer’s disease will use a nasal spray containing either insulin or a placebo.
The spray will be used 30 minutes after breakfast and dinner, as earlier trials show this is when brain cells absorb the most insulin.
The team will carry out a battery of memory tests on the patients, and also scan their brains to monitor any changes. ‘Information gained from the study has the potential to move nasal insulin forward rapidly as a therapy for Alzheimer’s disease,’ say the researchers.
‘The results will have considerable clinical and scientific significance, and growing evidence has shown that insulin carries out multiple functions in the brain and that insulin dysregulation may contribute to Alzheimer’s disease.’
The trial follows a smaller study, funded by the U.S. National Institute of Aging, which showed that short-term use of insulin preserved memory. Those who used insulin also had a slower rate of physical damage in the brain associated with progress of the disease.
Commenting on the study, Dr Clare Walton, research manager at the Alzheimer’s Society, said: ‘Researchers are increasingly finding links between type 2 diabetes and dementia, and are now testing diabetes drugs as potential treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.
‘We believe that the concept of drug “repurposing”, where drugs already licensed for one condition may be beneficial for others such as dementia, has enormous potential to deliver new treatments faster and cheaper than producing a new drug from scratch. We look forward to seeing the results of this trial next year.’
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