The prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), the most common form of dementia in the elderly, is increasing as the world population ages, with thirty-five million people affected worldwide. In parallel, the prevalence of type 2 diabetes and obesity, diseases characterized by insulin resistance, is increasing at alarming rates, largely due to poor lifestyle habits, with ~400 million people affected by type 2 diabetes worldwide. A growing body of evidence from epidemiological, pathological and molecular studies show that type 2 diabetes and AD are connected neurologically on multiple levels. Clinical/epidemiological studies have shown that each disease increases the risk of developing the other. Furthermore,diabetic and obese patients have structural brain abnormalities and early cognitive decline . At the molecular level, insulin resistance and metabolic stress, key features of diabetes and obesity, develop in the brains of AD subjects. However, while brain insulin resistance is also likely contributing to cognitive decline in metabolic disorders, additional factors that favor the development of dementia in diabetes remain to be identified.These gaps in our knowledge base represent intriguing questions that currently attract considerable interest in both AD and diabetes/obesity fields.
PALS network is keen to work to fill this critical gap by gathering together a team of researches with different and complementary expertise. Our research employs a multidisciplinary approach, combining studies in humans with studies using different animal models of disease. Our pipeline comprises experiments in rodent models of AD and diabetes to identify cellular/molecular mechanisms of disease. A key stage comprises extending studies to non-human primates, as their brains are highly similar to humans. The critical final step is to combine the results obtained in animal data with data from normal elderly individuals, AD and diabetes patients.