Insulin, delivered in a nasal spray, seems to improve cognitive function in Alzheimer's patients, according to research appearing in the Journal of Neurology. Nasal delivery is appropriate because the drug reaches the brain and central nervous system faster. But what is it about insulin, normally associated with diabetics, that helps memory? The researchers say insulin plays a role in the central nervous system and those who suffer from Alzheimer's experience a loss of insulin levels and activity.
In the study, Suzanne Craft of the University of Washington treated 104 patients with mild cognitive decline or mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease. Treatments were given through a nasal drug delivery device made by Kurve Technology of Bothell, WA. Four months later, the group that received the moderate insulin dose showed improvements in delayed story recall compared with the placebo group.
"For the past 10 years, we have understood a lot more about the role of insulin in the brain," Craft tells Time magazine. "It's well known that insulin plays an important role in blood-sugar regulation in the body, but work from our lab and others suggests that it has a number of different and important roles in the brain as well."
The authors said in a release that the results should provide the impetus for future clinical trials of intranasal insulin therapy.