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J Alzheimers Dis. 2016 Sep 6;54(2):445-56. doi: 10.3233/JAD-160284.

Breakdown of the Cerebrovasculature and Blood-Brain Barrier: A Mechanistic Link Between Diabetes Mellitus and Alzheimer's Disease.

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Biomarker Discovery Center, New Jersey Institute for Successful Aging, Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine, Stratford, NJ, USA.
Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Rowan University, Stratford, NJ, USA.
Department of Neurosurgery, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA.
Department of Geriatrics and Gerontology, Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine, Stratford, NJ, USA.


Alzheimer's disease (AD) and diabetes mellitus (DM) are among the most pervasive and devastating disorders that afflict people throughout the world. Although typically associated with older demographics, recent epidemiologic studies have reported parallel trends in decreasing age of onset and increasing incidence of these conditions. Promising research continues to implicate the cerebrovasculature and blood-brain barrier (BBB) as playing key roles in AD pathoetiology. Similarly, complications accompanying DM, such as diabetic nephropathy/retinopathy, cardiovascular disease, and stroke, have been rooted in vascular compromise. Not surprisingly, DM is now considered a major risk factor for AD. The purpose of this review is to highlight investigations into the role of the cerebrovasculature in the development and progression of AD. We give particular attention to studies on humans and a variety of animal model systems that have demonstrated a link between BBB dysfunction and pathological changes in the brain consistent with aging and AD. Together, these studies suggest that the vascular complications associated with chronic, poorly managed DM can lead to subclinical BBB breakdown that precedes and drives the pathological changes progressing to symptomatic AD, providing a common mechanistic thread connecting these two disorders. Furthermore, this emphasizes the need to focus on the vasculature as a potential therapeutic target with the intent of limiting BBB breakdown involved in disease initiation and progression. In conclusion, AD may be more than just an associated comorbidity of DM, and instead another manifestation of the underlying vascular pathology that is common to both.


Alzheimer’s disease; amyloid; blood-brain barrier; dementia; diabetes complications; diabetes mellitus

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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