Researchers have uncovered a unique connection between diabetes and Alzheimer's disease, providing further evidence that a disease that robs people of their memories may be affected by elevated blood sugar, according to scientists at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. While many earlier studies have pointed to diabetes as a possible contributor to Alzheimer's, the new study, carried out in mice, shows that elevated glucose in the blood can rapidly increase levels of amyloid beta, a key component of brain plaques in Alzheimer's patients. The buildup of plaques is thought to be an early driver of the complex set of changes that Alzheimer's causes in the brain. The new research was published online on May 4, 2015 in an open-access article in The Journal of Clinical Investigation. The article is titled “Hyperglycemia Modulates Extracellular Amyloid Beta Concentrations and Neuronal Activity in Vivo.” "Our results suggest that diabetes, or other conditions that make it hard to control blood sugar levels, can have harmful effects on brain function and exacerbate neurological conditions such as Alzheimer's disease," said lead author Shannon Macauley, Ph.D., a post-doctoral research scholar at Washington University. "The link we've discovered could lead us to future treatment targets that reduce these effects." People with diabetes can't control the levels of glucose in their blood, which can spike after meals. Instead, many patients rely on insulin or other medications to keep blood sugar levels in check. To understand how elevated blood sugar might affect Alzheimer's disease risk, the researchers infused glucose into the bloodstreams of mice bred to develop an Alzheimer's-like condition.
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