Could diabetes drug slow Alzheimer’s?


A trial has begun to see whether a drug used to treat diabetes can slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

The study will involve 200 patients with memory problems due to early Alzheimer’s. Laboratory research suggests that the drug, liraglutide, reduces brain inflammation, improving the growth of brain cells and the connections between them.

Patients will be recruited in London – at Imperial College and King’s College – and sites in Oxford, Southampton and Swindon.

One of those on the trial is 65-year-old Geoff Payne. He became concerned about short-term memory loss three years ago and was eventually diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

“My older brother died of Alzheimer’s at the age of 79,” he said.

“His disease was spotted quite late and I remember him being almost entirely silent and withdrawn at family gatherings.

 Geoff and Sue Payne

“I wish I’d tried to talk more to him about it. When I finally got my diagnosis it confirmed my own suspicions. I have had the disease for three years but fortunately I have not yet declined substantially.

Hope

“My wife and I know what to expect in the years ahead, so we take one day at a time. Hopefully this drug may help.”

Those on the trial will receive a daily injection of liraglutide or a placebo for 12 months. They will have scans and memory tests before and after the treatment.

It’s a decade since the last new treatment for Alzheimer’s was introduced and some major drug trials have failed in recent years.

“New drugs can take decades to filter through and cost billions,” said Dr Paul Edison, Imperial College London, who’s leading the trial.

“Liraglutide is a tried and tested diabetes treatment, so we know it is safe. This trial will show within three years whether it can slow the progression of Alzheimer’s.”

Alzheimer’s Society is providing more than £300,000 towards the project. Dr Doug Brown, Director of Research and Development said: “This exciting study suggests that one of these drugs can reverse the biological causes of Alzheimer’s even in the late stages and demonstrates we’re on the right track.

“We are now funding a major new trial to bring it closer to a position where it can be improving the lives of people with dementia.’

G8 summit

The need for more research and new treatments will be the key focus of the G8 dementia summit in London on Wednesday.

The Department of Health says health ministers will discuss how they can coordinate and accelerate efforts and try to break down barriers between companies, researchers and clinicians.

Dementia is already a significant global issue, and cases are predicted to rise from 44 million to 135 million by 2050 – a reflection of the growing and ageing global population.

It is thought to cost the global economy £370bn ($604bn) each year and there are concerns that future demands could overwhelm some health services.

Exercise most effective lifestyle choice for preventing dementia, researchers say.


  
Taking regular exercise is the most effective single lifestyle choice people can make to reduce their risk of dementia, according to one of the most extensive studies yet into people’s long-term health outcomes.
The 35-year investigation, carried out by researchers at Cardiff University, found that consistently following just four out of five key behaviours could reduce dementia risk by 60 per cent, while also cutting the chance of heart disease and stroke by 70 per cent.

Of the five behaviours – exercise, not smoking, having a low bodyweight, a healthy diet and low alcohol intake – exercise was found to be the most effective at improving long-term physical and mental health.

Although the five factors will be familiar to almost everyone, researchers said they were “really amazed” by quite how beneficial they had proved to be.

“What the research shows is that following a healthy lifestyle confers surprisingly large benefits to health,” said principle investigator Professor Peter Elwood of Cardiff University’s School of Medicine. “Healthy behaviours have a far more beneficial effect than any medical treatment or preventative procedure.”

The study, the longest of its kind to probe the influence of environmental factors in chronic disease, followed the health outcomes of 2,235 Caerphilly men. It is published today in the journal PLOS One.

Professor Elwood said that, unfortunately, the evidence from the study was that very few men actually follow the kind of healthy lifestyle that can prove so beneficial, and that, while smoking rates had gone down since the study began, the number of people living completely healthily had remained unchanged.

On Wednesday the UK will host the first ever G8 Dementia Summit, with health ministers meeting to discuss a global strategy to combat the disease. Dementia rates are set to treble worldwide to 135 million by 2050, with enormous societal and economic costs.

Dr Doug Brown, director of research and development at the Alzheimer’s Society said: “We have known for some time that what is good for your heart is also good for your head, and this study provides more evidence to show that healthy living could significantly reduce the chances of developing dementia.”