A pilot research study featuring a new insulin spray inhaler is showing promising results in delaying memory loss and other symptoms associated with early stage Alzheimer's disease.
The original research was conducted by geriatric psychiatrist Suzanne Craft, Ph.D., professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Washington. Craft is now actively collaborating with Jacobo Mintzer, M.D., vice-chair of clinical research, Department of Neurosciences, in the development of the follow-up multi-site study taking place around the country.
"It is very exciting to live in a time when new discoveries to appropriately treat Alzheimer's disease are within grasp. I am proud that the MUSC team is at the heart of that effort," said Mintzer, professor of neuroscience and psychiatry.
The team is investigating the use of an insulin spray to delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease in people diagnosed with an early stage of this progressive brain disorder. To date, there are no drugs available to halt, prevent or reverse the onset of this disease. According to the Alzheimer's Association, about 5.4 million Americans are diagnosed each year with Alzheimer's disease or a form of dementia. Today, scientists are making progress in diagnosing this disease earlier and finding more effective treatments and medications to delay the progress.
Mintzer, Craft and other researchers are exploring cell function including how brain cells use sugar and produce energy. More specifically, their focal area is the brain's ability to process insulin.
Craft's preliminary study featured 104 participants but offered a safe and cost effective measure to slow the disease's progress in its early stages. After two months, participants treated with 20 milligrams of insulin demonstrated an improved performance on memory tests. People who received a higher dose of insulin showed no change in their memory abilities. Insulin is a metabolic hormone that's effective in treating diabetes. The pilot study was funded by the National Institute on Aging and the National Institutes of Health and Prevention.
Other projects led by Mintzer include a gene transfer study as well as how genetics correlate to treatment response in Alzheimer's patients and therapies that increase the immune response to this disease.
Dr. Jacobo Mintzer
Mintzer joined MUSC in 1991. His interest in geriatric psychiatry, Alzheimer's disease and psychopharmacology of Alzheimer's disease and mental health in the elderly led him to partner with David Bachman, M.D., also a professor in the Department of Neuroscience, to establish the MUSC Alzheimer's Research and Clinical Programs, which is supported by the departments of Psychiatry and Neurology.
In October, Mintzer was named president of the International Psychogeriatrics Association.
As part of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Grand Rounds, held Oct. 7, Mintzer spoke about the progress of Alzheimer's disease and new treatments, scientific studies and therapies being conducted by MUSC researchers.