Academic journal article Journal of College Science Teaching

Rethinking Alzheimer's

Academic journal article Journal of College Science Teaching

Rethinking Alzheimer's

Article excerpt

For 30 years, Bill Klein, a Northwestern University neuroscientist, did not believe that Alzheimer's disease had anything to do with diabetes. But a collaboration with his colleague, Wei-Qin Zhao, showing how brain cells affected by Alzheimer's disease could become insulin-resistant, began to change his mind.

In normal brains, brain cells process insulin, allowing memories to form. Klein explains that in people with Alzheimer's disease "what's happening is insulin is there but it's not effective--the receptors have become insensitive." That's similar to type 2 diabetes, "where insulin is being made at least at the beginning but the body doesn't respond well to it and that's throughout the body," explains Klein.

So while type 2 diabetics suffer from insulin resistance in the body, Alzheimer's patients have insulin resistance in the brain.

What finally convinced Klein was his own discoveries about toxic proteins called ADDLs. Ten years ago, Klein and his colleagues discovered that ADDLs build up in the brains of Alzheimer's patients in addition to the plaques and tangles that are a well-known part of Alzheimer's pathology. …

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