Could a diabetes drug be used for Motor Neurone Disease?

A diabetes drug could one day be used to treat neurodegenerative diseases like Motor Neurone Disease (MND), Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Researchers at Lancaster University in the UK are to conduct a clinical trial of the diabetes drug Liraglutide, giving it to patients with MND to see whether they improve or not.

MND is a progressive degenerative disorder of motor neurones that leads to muscle weakness and death.

Because neurodegenerative diseases are a “family” of diseases, if a new treatment can be found for one, it may be useful for others too.

The study is led by Professor Hedley Emsley, Consultant Neurologist, with Professor Christian Hölscher from Lancaster University, who previously discovered that Liraglutide can help patients with Alzheimer’s.

Professor Holscher said: “This new trial is testing a very promising drug in people with MND, a dreadful condition for which there is no cure. We hope that this drug will make a difference.”

There is increasing interest in the idea that drugs licensed for one disease may have some use in a different area.

Professor Emsley said: “Repurposing drugs in this way might lead to treatments for devastating disorders such as MND . Effective treatments for MND are sadly lacking.”

There is also the advantage in that an existing drug overcomes the time and cost of drug development which may take up to a decade.

In treating diabetes, Liraglutide and related drugs control the release of insulin by binding to specific protein binding sites in the pancreas.

These cells are also found in cells in the brain where they appear to play a role in maintaining the metabolic health of neurones.

Research showing that activation of these receptor sites with drugs can protect neurones from damage.