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23 October 2017

An experimental drug being developed for diabetes is being investigated as a potential treatment for Alzheimer's disease by Melbourne scientists.

The Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute is testing the drug in mice in the hope it can reduce symptoms or slow the disease’s progression.

The formation of amyloid plaques and tangles in the brain are believed to be behind its degeneration and the aim of this trial is to see if the drug can remove them.

The trial drug increases a type of heat shock protein in the body, which occurs naturally and works to repair, refold and remove unwanted proteins.

“There has been some evidence that the heat shock proteins can alleviate some of the build up of those two unwanted proteins in the brain,” the Institute’s Dr Darren Henstridge said.

An investigational drug that is being developed to treat diabetes is now being tested to see if it could relieve symptoms in Alzheimer’s disease patients.

“We have access to an investigational drug that was first used at the institute in 2007 and since has been trialled clinically in humans for its ability to improve blood glucose levels in patients with type 2 diabetes.”

The benefit of this drug was that it had already been shown to be safe for use in humans for other health conditions, said the group leader with the Molecular Metabolism and Ageing Laboratory.

“If we can show this drug helps to delay the progression of Alzheimer’s disease in our preclinical models, we will then have the basis to fast-track the drug for clinical trials in patients,” Dr Henstridge said.

He stressed the research was still in its preliminary stages with preclinical studies yet to be completed.

In the past decade, hundreds of potential drugs have been trialled but have failed in their treatment of the common form of dementia.

If this trial is successful, it would still be at least a decade away from being available to patients.

Dementia Australia estimates there are more than 400,000 Australians living with dementia. It’s the country’s second leading cause of death.

Dr Henstridge will present his research at the Health Matters — Ageing Well public lecture at the Alfred Medical Research Education Precinct lecture theatre. 

Original Herald Sun article

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