Diabetes Linked to Buildup of Toxic Alzheimer's Protein

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Having diabetes may lead to an increase of toxic tau protein in the brain, which are associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Velandai Srikanth, MD, PhD, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia, and colleagues looked at 816 people, average age of 74. Three hundred and ninety-seven had mild cognitive impairment, 191 had Alzheimer’s, 228 had no memory problem and 124 had diabetes.

The researchers examined the relationship between type 2 diabetes, the loss of brain cells and connections, and the levels of beta amyloid and tangles of protein in spinal fluid.

Participants with diabetes had, on average, 16 picograms per milliliter greater levels of tau protein in the spinal and brain fluid, no matter if they had dementia or not, the researchers reported in the journal Neurology.

Higher tau levels in spinal fluid may be an indicator of greater build-up on tangles in the brain, which can lead to the development of dementia. Another finding was that those with diabetes had reduced cortex thickness, a part of the brain with the most nerve cells.

“Due to the fact that nerve cells in the brain do not replace themselves, it is extremely important to find ways to reduce the death of current brain cells,” Srikanth said in a statement. “Studies such as ours seek to understand how diseases like diabetes may directly or indirectly affect brain cell death.”

New Neurological Disorder Similar to Alzheimer's Identified
Diabetics tended to have higher levels of tau protein in spinal and brain fluid irregardless of whether they had dementia.

Diabetes may be linked to the buildup of tangles or tau in the brain, separate from Alzheimer's disease, according to a new study published in the September 2, 2015, online version of Neurology.

The study involved 816 people with an average age of about 74. Of those, 397 had mild cognitive impairment, which can be a precursor to dementia, 191 had Alzheimer's disease dementia and 228 people had no memory and thinking problems. A total of 124 of the participants had diabetes.

The study looked at the relationship between type 2 diabetes, the loss of brain cells and their connections, the levels of beta amyloid (a sticky buildup of plaques) and tau or tangles of protein in the spinal fluid of the participants.
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