News on Preventing Brain Shrinkage

July 16, 2010 at 5:22 pm Leave a comment

Colorado State University researchers*discovered that simultaneous low levels of insulin and proteins (called insulin growth factors) cause the brain to shrink.     Although the role of these two chemicals in dementia has been suspected, this is the first time research highlights that these two chemicals work together to actually prevent brain shrinkage when they are present in the brain in adequate amounts.   Additional research is planned to find ways to test and apply the most recent findings.    

It is the gradual loss of both the insulin and insulin-like growth factors brought on by aging and disease that are likely to increase the risk for brain shrinkage.   Insulin resistance, a condition in which the body becomes resistant to processing insulin is thought to be a key factor in the progressive drop of these two chemicals in the brain.

It is possible to have high levels of insulin in the blood, but abnormally low levels in the brain because of a blockage between the blood and the brain.    This Colorado State Study showed that everything from brain shrinkage, brain cell loss, protein loss and damage to neurons and glia cells, which are the cells that provide support and nutrition to the brain, were virtually halted in brain tissue when insulin-like growth factors were put directly into the brain tissue.

Insulin-like growth factors are proteins that support nerve cell survival, the regeneration of nerves and the formation of synapses (what connects the nerve cells).     This protein is often reduced in diabetic and Alzheimer’s patients.  Insulin is also typically low.  

* Information taken from Today at Colorado State University, Researchers Discover What Causes Brain to Shrink Providing Key to Mysteries of Dementia, October 2009.  Research conducted by Professor Douglas Ishi and student Dr. Pete Serbedija.

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