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Curr Alzheimer Res. 2008 Oct;5(5):438-47.

Insulin resistance and Alzheimer's disease: molecular links & clinical implications.

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Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Neurosciences, University of Chile, Iquique, Chile.


Hyperinsulinemia as well as type II diabetes mellitus are among the risk factors for Alzheimer's disease (AD). However, the molecular and cellular basis that link insulin resistance disorders and diabetes with AD are far from clear. Here, we discuss the potential molecular mechanisms that may explain the participation of these metabolic disorders in the pathogenesis of AD. The human brain uses glucose as a primary fuel; insulin secreted by the pancreas cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB), reaching neurons and glial cells, and exerts a region-specific effect on glucose metabolism. Glucose homeostasis is critical for energy generation, neuronal maintenance, neurogenesis, neurotransmitter regulation, cell survival and synaptic plasticity. It also plays a key role in cognitive function. In an insulin resistance condition, there is a reduced sensitivity to insulin resulting in hyperinsulinemia; this condition persists for several years before becoming full-blown diabetes. Toxic levels of insulin negatively influence neuronal function and survival, and elevation of peripheral insulin concentration acutely increases its cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) concentration. Peripheral hyperinsulinemia correlates with an abnormal removal of the amyloid beta peptide (Abeta) and an increase of tau hyperphosphorylation as a result of augmented cdk5 and GSK3beta activities. This leads to cellular cascades that trigger a neurodegenerative phenotype and decline in cognitive function. Chronic peripheral hyperinsulinemia results in a reduction of insulin transport across the BBB and a reduced insulin signaling in brain, altering all of insulin's actions, including its anti-apoptotic effect. However, the increase in brain insulin levels resulting from its peripheral administration at optimal doses has shown a cognition-enhancing effect in patient with AD. Some drugs utilized in type II diabetes mellitus reduce cognitive impairment associated with AD. The link between insulin resistance and neurodegeneration and AD, and the possible therapeutic targets in preventing the insulin-resistance disorders are analyzed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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