Northern Ireland scientists have discovered drugs with the potential to treat diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Researchers at the University of Ulster believe drugs they are developing could boost new brain cells and keep existing brain cells healthy.
It is hoped the drugs — initially designed to treat type 2 diabetes — could also halt resulting neurodegenerative conditions.
Diabetes is a known risk factor for Alzheimer’s.
Prof Christian Hölscher and his team at the School of Biomedical Sciences at the university’s Coleraine campus treated healthy mice with the drug (Val8)GLP-1 and studied its effects on the brain.
They found the drug promoted new brain cells to grow in the hippocampus, an area of the brain known to be involved in memory.
The team found that blocking the effect of GLP-1 made mice perform less well on learning and memory tasks. Boosting the brain with the drug seemed to have no side-effects.
Prof Hölscher said the team saw the importance of protecting the brain from disease.
“Here in Coleraine we are really interested in the potential of diabetes drugs for protecting brain cells from damage, and even promoting new brain cells to grow,” he said.