FYI Daily

Dementia & Diabetes: The Missing Link?

Last updated: Jun 15, 2012

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Does your loved one have diabetes and Alzheimer's? Among risk factors for Alzheimer's disease, diabetes is a big one. In fact, diabetics run at least double the risk of developing dementia. The "why" part isn't well understood, yet. But researchers say they've found at least one possible cause, a likely genetic link between the two diseases.

Researchers at City College in New York City say they believe a single gene disrupts the insulin pathway. The same gene, the "amyloid precursor protein" (APP) gene, is known to be present in many Alzheimer's cases that run in families.

"The insulin pathways are involved in many metabolic processes, including helping to keep the nervous system healthy," says biologist Chris Li.

Li and her colleagues scrutinized a protein called APL-1, made by a gene in the worm Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans), which works as an ideal stand-in for the human Alzheimer's disease gene, reports PsychCentral. The research looked at mutations in the gene and how metabolic processes were affected.

Worm research is a far way from human research, but the genetic connection has scientists excited.

"We know there's a link between Alzheimer's and diabetes, but until now, it was somewhat of a mystery," says Mark Johnston, the editor-in-chief of the journal Genetics, where the research was published. "This finding could open new doors for treating and preventing both diseases."

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