A new study shows that a man-made form of insulin delivered by nasal spray may improve working memory and more in patients with mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease.

For the study, 60 adults diagnosed with amnesic mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or mild to moderate Alzheimer’s dementia (AD) received 40 international unit (IU) doses of insulin detemir, a manufactured form of the hormone, via a nasal spray. The researchers noted that the man-made insulin’s effects are longer-lasting than “regular” insulin.

After 21 days, the patients showed significant improvement in their short-term ability to retain and process verbal and visual information compared with those who received 20 IU doses or a placebo, according to the researchers.

The study also found that recipients of 40 IU doses carrying the APOE-e4 gene, which is known to increase the risk for Alzheimer’s, recorded significantly higher memory scores than those who received the lower dosage or placebo. Researchers noted that non-carriers across all three groups posted significantly lower scores.

“The study provides preliminary evidence that insulin detemir can provide effective treatment for people diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s-related dementia similar to our previous work with regular insulin,” said Suzanne Craft, Ph.D., a professor of gerontology and geriatric medicine at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and lead author of the study.

“We are also especially encouraged that we were able to improve memory for adults with MCI who have the APOE-e4 gene, as these patients are notoriously resistant to other therapies and interventions.”

The researchers noted they also sought to determine if the insulin detemir would cause any negative side effects, reporting they found only minor adverse reactions.

“The study’s results support further investigation of the therapeutic value of insulin detemir as a treatment for Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases,” Craft said.

“Alzheimer’s is a devastating illness, for which even small therapeutic gains have the potential to improve quality of life and significantly reduce the overall burden for patients, families and society,” she said. “Future studies are warranted to examine the safety and efficacy of this promising treatment.”

The research, support by grants from the National Institute of Aging and the Department of Veteran Affairs, was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Source: Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center