Insulin and Alzheimer’s disease

A. The Pathway

I/ Insulin in the body

The insulin signaling pathway plays a crucial role in regulating glucose metabolism and energy homeostasis in the body. Key molecules involved in this pathway include insulin receptor (IR), insulin receptor substrate (IRS), phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K), Akt (protein kinase B), and glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK-3).

In addition to its role in glucose metabolism, the insulin signaling pathway has been implicated in various cellular processes, including cell growth, proliferation, survival, and synaptic plasticity. Especially, in the brain, insulin signaling is particularly important for neuronal function and cognition, as insulin receptors in synaptic transmission and plasticity.

II/ Insulin and the brain

Recently, there is growing evidence suggesting that dysregulation of the insulin signaling pathway may contribute to neurodegeneration and Alzheimer’s disease (AD). For example, insulin resistance, characterized by impaired insulin signaling and reduced responsiveness to insulin, has been observed in the brains of individuals with AD. This insulin resistance may lead to dysfunction in glucose metabolism, energy deficits, oxidative stress, and impaired synaptic plasticity, all of which are implicated in the pathogenesis of AD.

Furthermore, abnormal activation of GSK-3, a downstream target of the insulin signaling pathway, has been linked to the hyperphosphorylation of tau protein and the formation of neurofibrillary tangles, a hallmark pathological feature of AD. Inhibition of GSK-3 has been proposed as a potential therapeutic strategy for AD.

B. Types and Treatments of AD

The National Institute on Aging (NIA) provides information on the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Currently, there is no cure for AD, but various treatments can help manage symptoms and improve the quality of life for individuals with the condition. Treatment approaches include medication, lifestyle changes, and supportive therapies.

I/ Medications

    • Cholinesterase inhibitors: Drugs such as donepezil, rivastigmine, and galantamine may help improve cognitive symptoms by increasing levels of neurotransmitters involved in memory and learning.
    • Memantine: This medication regulates glutamate, a neurotransmitter involved in learning and memory, to help manage symptoms of moderate to severe AD.
    • Combination therapy: Some individuals may benefit from a combination of cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine.

II/ Supportive Therapies

      • Occupational therapy: Helps individuals maintain independence in daily activities.
      • Speech therapy: Assists with communication difficulties.
      • Physical exercise: Regular physical activity may help improve mood, sleep, and overall well-being.
      • Nutritional counseling: Ensures individuals receive adequate nutrition to support brain health.

III/ Clinical Trials

Participation in clinical trials for new medications and interventions is encouraged to advance research and potentially discover new treatments for AD.

IV/ Caregiver Support

Alzheimer’s often requires extensive caregiving, and support for caregivers is essential. Resources such as support groups, respite care, and educational programs can help caregivers manage stress and provide better care for their loved ones.

V/ Advance Planning

Individuals diagnosed with AD should engage in advance planning, including legal and financial arrangements and advance directives for healthcare decisions.

C. Future posibilities

Overall, the insulin signaling pathway plays a critical role in neuronal function and may represent a promising target for therapeutic intervention in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. While current treatments cannot halt or reverse the progression of AD, they can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life for individuals with the condition. Further research is needed to elucidate the precise mechanisms linking insulin signaling dysfunction to neurodegeneration and to develop effective therapeutic strategies targeting this pathway.


Akhtar A, Sah SP. Insulin signaling pathway and related molecules: Role in neurodegeneration and Alzheimer’s disease. Neurochem Int. 2020 May;135:104707. doi: 10.1016/j.neuint.2020.104707. Epub 2020 Feb 21. PMID: 32092326.



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