Some researchers compare Alzheimer’s disease to diabetes because glucose fuels memory, and the brains of people with Alzheimer’s cannot properly process glucose. Despite this realization, those treating Alzheimer’s could not use insulin in the past because a condition known as the blood-brain barrier prevents the large molecules of insulin from reaching the brain. However, a new study is testing the safety and efficiency of a mist inhaler device that bypasses the blood-brain barrier and sends insulin directly to the brain, where it may be able to energize the brains of Alzheimer’s patients and restore their memories.
Because nasal devices deliver drugs from the upper part of the nasal cavity directly into the brain, insulin can reach the brains of Alzheimer’s patients within 15 minutes. Early trials demonstrated that the procedure swiftly improves attention, memory and functional status. As of April 2016, a longer study of 90 patients seeks to verify these findings. An even larger study funded by the National Institutes of Health, which is now in the planning stages, holds promise of expediting the treatment’s availability to patients.
The researcher who devised the treatment, Dr. William Frey, is hopeful that it will be on the market by 2017, although colleagues estimate that it may take up to a decade for it to be available for widespread use. Frey has been seeking a cure for dementia for almost 40 years. His research became personal when his grandparents, father and other relatives one by one succumbed to the ailment. When he first devised an insulin mist inhaler as a treatment for Alzheimer’s, he had great difficulty securing a patent, as the patent office would not take his work seriously. Since then, other researchers in Europe and the United States have come to similar conclusions, allowing his research to go forward.
Frey’s innovative research has the potential to help not only people with Alzheimer’s, but also people with Parkinson’s disease and football players suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy brought on by concussions. Read this article to learn about a number of other exciting discoveries made through ongoing research to find treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.
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