Learn more about recent scientific breakthroughs.

By Perri Ormont Blumberg
January 3, 2019
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Sometimes, scientists stumble upon incredible findings just as we trip on a stray watering can on our porch: by accident.

Such was the case in the 2017 discovery that triple receptor drugs intended for diabetes patients could potentially treat Alzheimer's disease. Lancaster University scientists published their findings in the journal Brain Research, sharing that such drugs could be part of future treatments for the progressive disease. In a press release, lead researcher Professor Christian Holscher of Lancaster University said the new treatment with these drugs "holds clear promise of being developed into a new treatment for chronic neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease."

Later in the same statement, Holscher also noted, "[t]hese very promising outcomes demonstrate the efficacy of these novel multiple receptor drugs that originally were developed to treat type 2 diabetes but have shown consistent neuro- protective effects in several studies." It's worth noting that since the study was conducted in mice, future research is needed to corroborate the findings in a human population.

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Since these findings were published, more promising research has emerged. In 2018, research from Mount Sinai School of Medicine also found that diabetes medicine may reduce the severity of Alzheimer's. For the study, published in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS One, scientists looked at the brain tissue of people with Alzheimer's and diabetes, Alzheimer's without diabetes, and neither disease. While the sample size was under 100 individuals, the results are promising. 

"Most modern Alzheimer's treatments target amyloid plaques and haven't succeeded in effectively treating the disease," said Dr. Vahram Haroutunian, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and senior author of the study in a press release. "Insulin and diabetes medications such as metformin are FDA approved and safely administered to millions of people and appear to have a beneficial effect on people with Alzheimer's. This opens opportunities to conduct research trials on people using similar drugs or on drugs that have similar effects on the brains' biological pathways and cell types identified in this study." These exciting findings could help pave the way for an improved treatment regime — and ultimately a cure — for this devastating disease.

Looking to make 2019 your healthiest yet? Check out 7 Foods Nutritionists Say Can Make You Live Longer.