New research has found that there is convincing evidence that Type 2 diabetes is associated not only with an increased risk of Parkinson’s, but may also contribute to faster progression of Parkinson’s symptoms.

Investigators have proposed that careful screening for diabetes in newly diagnosed cases of Parkinson’s and better management of diabetes may in turn slow down the progression of of the disease. This new study provides further support for the research being championed Cure Parkinson’s, that is seeking to repurpose the diabetes drug exenatide for Parkinson’s.

The background:

Diabetes is a lifelong metabolic condition in which a person’s blood sugar level become elevated. There are two main types of diabetes:

  • Type 1 diabetes, which is a lifelong autoimmune disease where the immune system of the body attacks and destroys the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin.
  • Type 2 diabetes, which is far more common than Type 1, involves the body either not producing enough insulin or cells in the body not reacting to insulin.

Insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas that helps dietary glucose enter cells. Glucose is a major source of energy for cells, but when it is not absorbed into cells it can start to accumulate in the blood increasing the likelihood of problems occurring, for example kidney and nerve damage.

For some time, evidence has been accumulating that having Type 2 diabetes when you are diagnosed with Parkinson’s may have a negative impact on the progression of Parkinson’s symptoms. Now, researchers at Queen Mary University of London who conducted a systematic review and analysis of data from six different medical databases, reported that having Type 2 diabetes may also increase a person’s risk of developing Parkinson’s. The researchers proposed that careful screening of newly diagnosed cases of Parkinson’s and diabetes may allow for better management of the disease and in turn slow down the progression of Parkinson’s.

This research brings together the results from many other studies to provide convincing evidence that Type 2 diabetes likely affects not only Parkinson’s risk, but also Parkinson’s progression. There are many treatment strategies for type 2 diabetes, including prevention strategies, which may be re-purposed for the treatment of Parkinson’s.

Dr Alastair Noyce, senior researcher on the study

Last year Cure Parkinson’s-funded research found that people with type 2 diabetes who were being treated with exenatide had a reduced risk of developing Parkinson’s. This study was part of Cure Parkinson’s International Linked Clinical Trials (iLCT) programme.

The next steps:

It will be interesting going forward to determine the mechanisms of action underlying the influential impact diabetes could be having on Parkinson’s. Such knowledge may provide new insights leading to novel therapies.

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