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  • Researchers Announce Alzheimer's Discovery

  • The Alzheimer's Disease and Memory Disorders Center is recruiting patients for a new study, as researchers at Rhode Island Hospital announce further evidence that Alzheimer's disease is a type of diabetes.

    The Alzheimer's Disease and Memory Disorders Center, under the direction of Brian Ott, MD, is the largest memory assessment program in Rhode Island and offers a full range of diagnostic and treatment services, including brain imaging, genetic testing and neuropsychological evaluation. It also conducts a range of clinical trials of new and promising treatments to delay or slow memory loss. The new trial will determine whether imaging of the brain through MRI or PET scans every six months can help predict and monitor the onset and progression of Alzheimer's disease, which affects an estimated 4.5 million Americans.

    In November 2005, researchers at Rhode Island Hospital and Brown Medical School announced the discovery that insulin and its receptors in the brain drop significantly during the early stages of Alzheimer's disease and that the levels decline progressively as the disease becomes more severe. They also found that acetylcholine deficiency, a hallmark of the disease, is linked directly to the loss of insulin in the brain. The groundbreaking research follows a March 2005 announcement of research that provided the first evidence that insulin and its related proteins are produced in the brain, and that reduced levels of both are linked to Alzheimer's disease.

    "We're able to show that insulin impairment happens early in the disease. We're able to show it's linked to major neurotransmitters responsible for cognition. We're able to show it's linked to poor energy metabolism, and it's linked to abnormalities that contribute to the tangles characteristic of advanced Alzheimer's disease. This work ties several concepts together, and demonstrates that Alzheimer's disease is quite possibly a Type 3 diabetes," says Suzanne de la Monte, MD, a Rhode Island Hospital neuropathologist who is the senior author of both studies.

    "This has important implications for treatment.  If you could target the disease early, you could prevent the further loss of neurons."

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