Science Briefs: Diabetes drug may be useful for Alzheimer's

Diabetes drug may be useful for Alzheimer's

Drugs used to treat diabetes could also be used to treat Alzheimer's disease, and vice versa, according to new research from Britain's University of Aberdeen.

The researchers found that dementia-related complications within the brain can lead to changes in glucose handling and ultimately diabetes. This is contrary to what was previously thought - that diabetes begins with a pancreas malfunction or a high-fat, high-sugar diet.

Said one of the scientists Bettina Platt: "Around 80 per cent of people with Alzheimer's disease also have some form of diabetes or disturbed glucose metabolism. This is hugely relevant as Alzheimer's is, in the vast majority of cases, not inherited, and lifestyle factors and co-morbidities must therefore be to blame."

She added: "We now think that some of the compounds that are used for obesity and diabetic deregulation might potentially be beneficial for Alzheimer's patients as well.

"The good news is that there are a number of new drugs available right now which we are testing to see if they would reverse both Alzheimer's and diabetes symptoms. We will also be able to study whether new treatments developed for Alzheimer's can improve both the diabetic and cognitive symptoms."

New way to recycle plastic trash into fuel

A new way of recycling millions of tonnes of plastic garbage into liquid fuel has been devised by researchers from the University of California, Irvine (UCI) and the Shanghai Institute of Organic Chemistry (SIOC) in China.

UCI chemist Zhibin Guan and Dr Zheng Huang, his collaborator at SIOC, together with their colleagues, have figured out how to break down the strong bonds of polyethylene, the most common commercially available form of plastic, said the UCI in a statement.

Scientists have been trying to recycle plastic bags, bottles and other trash generated by humans with less toxic or energy-intensive methods.

In the newly discovered technique, the team degrades plastics in a milder and more efficient manner through a process known as cross-alkane metathesis. The substances needed for the new method are by-products of oil refining, so they are readily available.

Mosquito saliva helps viruses spread in body

Mosquito bites are not just itchy, they also make viral infections spread by the insects far worse.

According to a study led by the University of Leeds in Britain, that inflammation where the insect has bitten not only helps a virus such as Zika or dengue establish an infection more quickly, it also helps it to spread around the body, increasing the likelihood of severe illness.

"Mosquito bites are not just annoying - they are key for how these viruses spread around your body and cause disease," said Dr Clive McKimmie, a research fellow at the School of Medicine and senior author of the study.

The researchers used mouse models to study the bites of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which spreads infections such as Zika, dengue and Chikungunya.

When a mosquito bites, it injects saliva into the skin, which triggers an immune response where white blood cells rush to the site. But instead of helping, some of these cells get infected and inadvertently replicate the virus, the researchers found.

"This research could be the first step in repurposing commonly available anti-inflammatory drugs to treat bite inflammation before any symptoms set in," said Dr McKimmie.

Compiled by Chang Ai-Lien

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2016, with the headline 'Science Briefs'. Print Edition | Subscribe