Could diabetes drugs be used to treat Parkinson’s?

memory-loss-dementiaDrugs commonly used in the treatment of Type 2 diabetes are being researched as a potential therapy for Parkinson’s disease. A hormone known as Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) is used frequently as a molecular model within the diabetes field to produce similar drugs against, called analogues. This is due to the ability of GLP-1 to counteract diabetic symptoms by increasing insulin release and glucose uptake in the body.

However, recent studies have discovered that insulin signalling pathways in the brains of Parkinson’s disease patients are impaired. This consequently prompted research by a team in Lancaster to investigate the effects of two particular diabetes drugs, known as Liraglutide (Victoza®) and Exendin-4 (Byetta®), on Parkinson’s disease.

The results from this found that when GLP-1 analogues bound to the associated receptor in the brain, a synaptic marker called PSD95 was produced. This production then activated a number of associated genes and increased the number of nerve cells, known as synapses, within the brain.

The drugs were also found to increase expression of a receptor in the brain, known as the AMPA receptor. This is an important part of the central nervous system as it functions by enabling rapid transmission of synapses. The increased expression of this was found to enhance synapse activity, whilst also improving memory formation.

Both of the drugs are currently being tested in clinical trials, with researchers remaining optimistic that Liraglutide (Victoza®) and Exendin-4 (Byetta®) will provide practical and effective treatments for not only Parkinson’s disease but other types of dementia as well.

More information available from:


Holscher C (2014) Regulatory peptides. 192: 55-56

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I have held a love for science ever since I first encountered Biology at A-Level. Ever since then, I have studied an undergraduate degree in Nutrition and Food Science at The University of Reading before completing my masters in Biomedicine at Lancaster University last year. I currently work as a medical copywriter and work alongside a number of pharmaceutical companies, so I am consistently up to date on medical research.

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