Food for Thought
When Ewan McNay was eight years old, he decided that he wanted to do two things: live forever and find out how the brain works. The secret to eternal life is a work in progress, but his research on insulin resistance in the brain has added a new dimension to our understanding of Alzheimer’s disease.
Ewan McNay |
Alzheimer’s disease is a story that goes from a single atom all the way up to a human and even societal scale. My work focuses on the link between Alzheimer’s and insulin-resistant diabetes, which first came to light in the late 80s and has progressed over the past 20 years to a point where we have a good understanding of at least some of the molecular bases linking the two diseases, and can even take an educated guess on how we might be able to intervene. People with Type 2 diabetes are up to seven times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, but you don’t have to be diabetic for insulin resistance to affect the brain. It’s perfectly possible to have impaired brain insulin signaling, even if your body is not systemically insulin resistant – an observation confirmed in post mortem studies of Alzheimer’s affected brains. We suspect that, in some patients, brain insulin resistance is a consequence of a whole-body disease, while other patients have what is effectively a brain-limited form of diabetes – sometimes referred to as “Type 3 diabetes”.
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