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Southampton scientists begin £100k study into new Alzheimer’s treatment

Published: 
27 May 2011

Scientists in Southampton are investigating whether a diabetes drug could help treat Alzheimer’s disease, thanks to a £99,221 grant from Alzheimer’s Research UK.

The two-year project, which starts this month, will see scientists at the University of Southampton working with researchers in Northern Ireland and London to explore the effects of a drug called liraglutide (Victoza). The drug is currently used to treat type 2 diabetes, but recent findings suggest it may also be beneficial for Alzheimer’s.

Led by Professor Hugh Perry, the team at Southampton will collaborate with scientists at the University of Ulster and Imperial College London, pooling their expertise to further test the drug and understand its effects on the brain. It’s hoped that positive results from the project could lead to clinical trials.

Researchers in Northern Ireland have already found that in mice, the drug can enhance brain cell growth and protect memory formation, as well as reducing levels of amyloid – a hallmark protein in Alzheimer’s – in the brain. Their results also suggest the drug could protect against inflammation in the brain, an area of expertise for Professor Perry and his team.

Professor Perry says:“Our team is very interested in how inflammation contributes to Alzheimer’s disease. Previously we’ve found that where people with Alzheimer’s also have common infections and systematic inflammation, their cognitive decline is more rapid. Our hope is that this drug could be able to mitigate against that effect.

“We are very grateful to Alzheimer’s Research UK for this funding, which will enable us to share our knowledge and find out whether liraglutide could in fact benefit people with Alzheimer’s. Dementia is not a normal part of ageing – with research, it can be held at bay, and we hope our work will bring us closer to that goal.”

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, which currently affects more than 2,000 people in Southampton alone, and 820,000 people in the UK.

Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, adds: “Earlier findings suggest a need for further investigation to see whether this drug could be helpful in Alzheimer’s, and we are very pleased to be supporting this promising project. It’s vital that we find out more about the links between diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease, and this research should also tell us much more about those links.

“Research is the only answer to dementia, and projects like this one give us a much better chance of being able to fight the condition.”

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