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Discovery supports theory of Alzheimer's disease as form of diabetes
Date:9/26/2007

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Insulin, it turns out, may be as important for the mind as it is for the body. Research in the last few years has raised the possibility that Alzheimers memory loss could be due to a novel third form of diabetes.

Now scientists at Northwestern University have discovered why brain insulin signaling -- crucial for memory formation -- would stop working in Alzheimers disease. They have shown that a toxic protein found in the brains of individuals with Alzheimers removes insulin receptors from nerve cells, rendering those neurons insulin resistant. (The protein, known to attack memory-forming synapses, is called an ADDL for amyloid -derived diffusible ligand.)

With other research showing that levels of brain insulin and its related receptors are lower in individuals with Alzheimers disease, the Northwestern study sheds light on the emerging idea of Alzheimers being a type 3 diabetes.

The new findings, published online by the FASEB Journal, could help researchers determine which aspects of existing drugs now used to treat diabetic patients may protect neurons from ADDLs and improve insulin signaling in individuals with Alzheimers. (The FASEB Journal is a publication of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.)

In the brain, insulin and insulin receptors are vital to learning and memory. When insulin binds to a receptor at a synapse, it turns on a mechanism necessary for nerve cells to survive and memories to form. That Alzheimers disease may in part be caused by insulin resistance in the brain has scientists asking how that process gets initiated.

We found the binding of ADDLs to synapses somehow prevents insulin receptors from accumulating at the synapses where they are needed, said William L. Klein, professor of neurobiology and physiology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, who led the research team. Instead, they are piling up where they are made, in the cell body, n
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Contact: Megan Fellman
fellman@northwestern.edu
847-491-3115
Northwestern University
Source:Eurekalert

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