Commonly available drugs for diabetes could be effective in the battle against dementia.
This is according to scientists at the Universities of Ulster and Lancaster, who found that liraglutide and lixisenatide - which increase insulin production - could help to improve memory retention.
Experts discovered that mice who had the drug over a ten-week period had lower levels of amyloid-beta plaque in their brains, while their memories were enhanced.
The buildup of amyloid-beta is commonly thought to be a hallmark of the degenerative condition.
Such findings could potentially make a huge difference because the drugs are already licensed and on the market. The issue with new ones being created is that it often takes a long time before the public can access them.
Professor Christian Holscher of Lancaster University, who led the study, said these were "very exciting" results.
"There are no drugs on the market for Alzheimer's disease that actually treat the disease, all we currently have are two types of drugs that mask the symptoms for a while. Lixisenatide and liraglutide offer a real improvement by treating the basis of the disease and, therefore, preventing degeneration," he commented.
Head of research at the Alzheimer's Society James Pickett said the idea of "drug repurposing" - where a drug that is already licensed for a disease could also tackle dementia - has huge potential.
"By speeding up the research process we hope to deliver a new dementia treatment within five to 10 years," he said.
Liraglutide and lixisenatide are taken by diabetics as they reduce the amount of sugar in the blood and allow food to travel at a slower pace through the stomach.
It is believed around 850,000 individuals will have dementia by next year, so any developments in treatment will be most welcome.
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