Recent studies show people with type 2 diabetes are almost twice as likely as the general population to develop Alzheimer’s disease. But, in one sense, a link between both conditions may not be such a bad thing. Recent findings suggest that an already widely used diabetes drug may be able to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s-related cognitive decline, according to an article published in Frontiers in Aging Science, Seeking Alpha reports.


For the study, researchers tested Novo Nordisk’s Victoza, a once-daily injectable drug that’s currently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to help reverse glucose intolerance and insulin resistance, two major effects of type 2 diabetes. In this latest Phase II clinical trial, scientists evaluated how the diabetes drug fared against dementia, as low levels of the hormone insulin are also associated with Alzheimer’s disease.


In the 26-week, placebo-controlled trial, researchers examined the effects of Victoza (liraglutide) on accumulations of proteins in the brain (a common sign of Alzheimer’s), the breakdown of sugar in the blood, and cognitive skills in 38 subjects.


Findings from a brain scan showed that the diabetes drug helped prevent a reduction of energy used by the brain, something that occurs in Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers also found that subjects treated with the drug saw significant improvements in their tests for spatial orientation (our innate sense of direction) when compared with the placebo group.


“Fortunately, the first data we have from human brain tissue and the first clinical trial, it really shows that, yes, the drug gets into the brain and is protective,” said Christian Hölscher, a professor of biomedical and life sciences at the United Kingdom–based Lancaster University who is on the team overseeing Phase IIb human subjects.


This upcoming trial, based at the Imperial College of London, is currently recruiting individuals with mild Alzheimer’s dementia to help further test the effects of the drug. Trial results are expected by the end of 2018.


For more information about links between diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease, click here.