Diabetes Treatment May Slow Alzheimer's

Published 07/21 2014 11:57AM

Updated 07/21 2014 06:03PM

Every 70 seconds, someone in the U.S. develops Alzheimer's disease. Experts say it's the most common form of dementia, accounting for   50 to 80 percent of cases. There's no cure, but researchers are working on a different kind of treatment to at least slow down the progress of the disease.

Judy Jolie knew back in college her husband Tom was the one.  "Right away we knew we wanted to do something with our lives." She said.

Tom felt the same. "We realized we had a lot of things in common and I think that's what basically attracted us." He said.

The two married and began their life together on a mission trip to South America. Now, 50 years later, Jolie fondly remembers those times, but after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease eight years ago, her short term memory is fading.

"Some people can't walk very well or run and I just you know, can't hang onto you know, I can't pull things out of my memory as well as I'd like to." Judy said.

The trial, known as "SNIFF" is testing a new insulin nasal spray that could change the way we treat Alzheimer's, and could give Jolie new hope.

Insulin plays a vital role in managing your body's blood sugar. Neelum Aggarwal, MD, Cognitive Neurologist at Rush University Medical Center says it also plays a key role in brain function.

"If you have Alzheimer's disease, you see specific areas of the brain that are not utilizing the sugar the way they should.  That has to do with the insulin receptors." Dr. Aggarwal said, "These areas of the brain now are not working."

That insulin resistance impacts memory and the spray will deliver insulin directly to the brain where changes can take place.

"So if we learn how to modulate the sugar issue and learn how sugar interacts with the brain for brain function, then we have a chance of slowing down the rates of dementia which is our ultimate goal." Aggarwal said.

In a smaller trial, he said, the spray was shown to improve memory and preserve cognitive function in the early stages of Alzheimer's. Results the Jolie's would be thrilled with.

The SNIFF study is actively recruiting patients across the country in 29 centers.  The closest one to us is in Baltimore.  Qualified patients are non-diabetic and have been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment or are in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease.

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