Scientists believe unsuccessful Alzheimer’s drugs, which are already on the market, could be recycled to treat people suffering from a range of other medical conditions.
These conditions, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity, known collectively as metabolic syndrome, damage blood vessels and increase the risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
Researchers from the University of Dundee have helped work on the project and believe its findings reveal an “exciting possibility”.
The University’s Professor Mike Ashford, research supervisor, said: “Our work demonstrates that an early abnormal biological process, which is strongly linked to Alzheimer’s disease, may be responsible for vascular disease and hypertension in people with obesity and diabetes.
“These findings suggest the exciting possibility whereby existing drugs that have unfortunately shown no benefit in clinical trials for Alzheimer’s Disease, may instead be used to treat vascular disease in this group of people.”
News that the research also promises to help identify a link between diabetes and heart attacks and could help sufferers live ‘longer and healthier lives’.
Eddie Johnston from Diabetes UK, said: “We know that people living with diabetes are at higher risk of heart attacks or stroke, but we don’t yet know exactly why.
“The new research helps to shed light on to the connection.”
The team discovered people with metabolic syndrome overproduce an enzyme called BACE1, which in turn creates a protein known as beta amyloid.
Mr Johnston said: “If the enzyme BACE1 is responsible for this increased risk, it represents a promising target for new treatments, which could help people with diabetes live longer, healthier lives.
The research team tested an experimental compound known as M-3 on mice with that were either obese or had diabetes.
The compound was shown not only to stop the blood vessel damage dead in its tracks but also reverse it.
Metabolic syndrome affects around one in four adults in the UK and nearly a million people in the UK suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, with numbers expected to reach 1.6 million by 2040.
Associate Medical Director Professor Jeremy Pearson at the British House Foundation said: “Blood vessel damage caused by diabetes accelerates and worsens heart and circulatory diseases.
“These findings identify a new damaging pathway already targeted by a drug in development for the treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease.”