Type 2 diabetes increases Alzheimer’s disease risk by about two-fold. To better understand the connection, researchers are exploring the metabolism of glucose in the brain.
Specifically, they are getting a better understanding of the metabolic processes in the brain that may have important implications for potential treatments.
The research is being presented at Neuroscience 2019, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world’s largest source of emerging news about brain science and health.
Since the metabolism of glucose is important for brain functioning, including energy distribution and neural activity, malfunction, therefore, has cascading effects.
Researchers are now working to understand the exact underpinnings and consequences of such metabolic disturbance to more easily identify and treat the disease.
“Not much is known about the connection between dementia and the metabolic system that fuels the brain,” said press conference moderator Dr. David Holtzman, a professor at Washington University and scientific director of the Hope Center for Neurological Disorders. “Further research can help us understand how to manipulate these functions for treatment purposes, as well as better identify the underpinnings of the disease.”
Some of the new findings presented at Neuroscience 2019 include:
- A “typical Western diet” — high fat and high carbohydrate — fed to a mouse model that has certain types of Alzheimer’s disease-pathology leads to decreased brain insulin signaling and subsequently impaired memory. (Presented by Sami Gabbouj, University of Eastern Finland).
- An understudied genetic variant of apolipoprotein E called ApoE2 has neuroprotective properties against Alzheimer’s disease and a more robust metabolism of glucose than ApoE4, a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. Expressing ApoE2 in cells that also express ApoE4 reduces metabolic deficiencies and increases the brain’s resilience to developing AD. (Presented by Li(qin) Zhao, University of Kansas).
- A defect in the glucose transporter in mice that have Alzheimer’s disease pathology impaired the delivery of glucose to the brain, leaving extra in the blood. Improving glucose delivery in Alzheimer’s disease patients even after the disease’s trademark “plaque” has appeared may, therefore, offer an effective treatment. (Steven W. Barger, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences).
- Glucose resistance and abnormal sleep patterns are prevalent in Alzheimer’s disease mice prior to the appearance of any other disease symptoms, such as cognitive decline. These findings shed light on the complex interplay between the risk factors of AD and the timing of abnormal patterns of sleep and glucose metabolism relative to AD symptoms. (Shannon L. Macauley, Wake Forest School of Medicine).
These studies provide a deeper understanding between the brain’s metabolic functions and the disruption caused by Alzheimer’s disease.
It’s still not entirely clear whether these disruptions are merely a symptom of or an important causal factor in Alzheimer’s disease, but the identification of their role can potentially help with the better diagnosis of the disease and/or mitigation of its effects.
This research was supported by national funding agencies including the National Institutes of Health and private funding organizations.
Find out more about Alzheimer’s Disease and other cognitive disorders on BrainFacts.org.
The Society for Neuroscience.
- The Society for Neuroscience. (2019, October 20). Metabolic disturbance in the brain exacerbates, may forewarn Alzheimer’s pathology. EurekAlert! Retrieved October 22, 2019, from https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-10/sfn-mdi091919.php