Alzheimer’s is a complex disease with many individual components potentially contributing to its onset. Diabetes is an important risk factor for Alzheimer’s, but we don’t fully understand how the two diseases are linked.
This project aims to determine whether a protein called BACE1 has a key role to play in Alzheimer’s and diabetes. Prof Platt will work to better understand the mechanisms that underlie the link and identify brain regions involved in the two conditions. They also plan to run experiments to shed light on the direction of the link between Alzheimer’s and diabetes i.e., do Alzheimer’s processes trigger the development of diabetes or vice-versa?
Diabetes is a known risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and better understanding the nature of the link between the two conditions is an important step towards developing ways to reduce Alzheimer’s risk.
There have been no new treatments for Alzheimer’s in over 15 years and this project has the potential to help us understand more about how diabetes drugs could benefit people living with Alzheimer’s disease.
The team will work with mice that have been bred with the human BACE1 gene. These mice develop both Alzheimer’s and diabetes-like symptoms and by studying brain changes in detail, the team hope to build a detailed timeline of the processes underlying each disease.
They are particularly interested in when the changes appear in two brain regions:
– the hippocampus, the memory centre of the brain which is heavily involved in Alzheimer’s disease.
– the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that helps to control metabolism – a process that goes awry in diabetes.
The team will also explore whether diabetes treatments and potential Alzheimer’s treatments could reverse symptoms in these mice. This will help to understand the effects of two drug classes that are being explored as potential Alzheimer’s treatments. One is liraglutide an existing diabetes treatment that researchers are hoping to repurpose for Alzheimer’s, and the second is a kind of BACE inhibitor – a category of drug that is designed to block the action of the BACE1 protein to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
Prof Bettina Platt
University of Aberdeen
Full project name
Neuronal hBACE1: The link between Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes?