Vladimirs Piļipenko - medical doctor and manager of the project administered by the UL Foundation

Researchers at the Department of Pharmacology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Latvia (UL) have found the answer to the question whether metformin, an antidiabetic agent, can stop Alzheimer's disease even before it begins. The results of the study which is an important contribution to science and society are positive – the substance studied in animal models delays the inflammation of the brain and improves memory. The project is supported by the patron “Mikrotīkls” in cooperation with the UL Foundation.

Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia, affecting around 50 million people worldwide. It usually affects the elderly, but pathological changes start early and the direct cause is still unknown. Most (95–99%) cases of Alzheimer's disease are sporadic, that is, they are based on mechanisms that have caused pathological changes. These include inadequate processing of glucose in the brain, neuroinflammation, oxidative stress and a decrease in synaptic density. “By targeting these processes that take place in the pre-dementia phase, we could stop Alzheimer's before it has started,” says Vladimirs Piļipenko, medical doctor and manager of the project administered by the UL Foundation.

To study the most effective treatment approach

Clinical symptoms of Alzheimer's disease – including memory deterioration, impaired perception, and inability to perform daily activities – can only be detected 10 to 15 years after the onset of Alzheimer's disease. Consequently, pharmacotherapeutic strategies targeting the early stages of the disease may be considered the most effective approach. There is a potential for creating effective medication.

One of the most recent theories suggests that the development of Alzheimer's disease can be explained by a lack of glucose to support brain function. Glucose is known to be the main source of energy in the brain. In addition, the most recent studies have shown that people with type 2 diabetes are at a 40% greater risk of developing Alzheimer's. Thus, there is an increasing interest in investigating antidiabetic formulations as enhancers of cognitive functions in case of Alzheimer's disease.

A versatile remedy for neurodegenerative diseases

The team of researchers at the Department of Pharmacology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Latvia, led by Dr. med. Vladimirs Piļipenko, investigate whether metformin can prevent the onset of Alzheimer's disease. It is one of the oldest and less toxic antidiabetic agents. It has recently been found to cross the blood-brain barrier easily, spread to the brain areas, and act on the central nervous system.

Investigating the neuroprotective potential of metformin is a follow-up of studies dedicated to new approaches to stopping sporadic Alzheimer's disease. In previous studies, V. Piļipenko has looked at new treatment options for Alzheimer's disease, focusing mechanisms of action not only on activating systems, as it has been done traditionally, but also on the contrary, – on inhibiting or suppressing system to balance neuronal activity. The function of this system is maintained by Gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA – an inhibitory neurotransmitter plays a key role in the optimal functioning of the nervous system.

The data obtained show that the compounds under investigation have neuroprotective potential. Their molecular structures can be used as prototypes for the design of new antineurodegenerative compounds to halt the development of Alzheimer's disease in the early stages,” thus the importance of the research is explained by Vladimirs Piļipenko. In October this year, the researcher defended his doctoral thesis dedicated to the studies of GABAergic system-targeted substances in a rat model of sporadic Alzheimer's disease. The thesis was developed under the scientific guidance of UL Faculty of Medicine Senior Researcher, Dr. habil. med. Vija Zaiga Kluša.

This solution can help not only the patients with Alzheimer's disease, but also become a remedy for combating other neurodegenerative diseases by stopping the loss of brain cells before the onset of illness.

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