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Insulin Nasal Spray Trial Improves Alzheimer's Symptoms

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Doctors at Health Partners in the Twin Cities are growing increasingly optimistic about a new Alzheimer's treatment. It's a nasal spray they say is greatly helping with memory loss in patients taking part in a clinical trial.

"We go day by day, and there are some days that are more difficult than other days," Mary Margaret Lehmann said.

After 56 years of marriage, Lehmann is closer to her husband than she's ever been. Ken was diagnosed with Alzheimer's 10 years ago, but the couple is hopeful that an intranasal insulin spray may help.

"It gives hope," Ken Lehmann said.

"It's a different strategy for treating Alzheimer's Disease," Dr. Leah Hanson said.

Dr. Hanson is part of a team of scientists at Health Partners Neuroscience Center that has been testing the effects of insulin on the brain. When someone has Alzheimer's Disease, insulin is greatly reduced-- leading to memory loss.

"Not unlike a diabetic where you don't have enough insulin in the body, insulin allows the sugar to go into the cell and that creates energy. And your cells need energy to do their jobs," Dr. Hanson said.

Health Partners doctors believe current Alzheimer's drugs can lose their effectiveness when they are digested or put in the blood stream. So their solution is a direct shot of insulin spray through the nose and into cells that connect to the brain.

"Once in the left, once in the right-- twice a day," Dr. Hanson said. "Within 15 minutes of one spray of insulin in the nose, they saw an improved ability to remember words and remember stories."

Dr. Hanson said one of the keys is a spray container called SipNose. If it continues to test well, she's hopeful it can be used for patients with other neurological diseases such as dementia and Parkinson's.

"We have not given up hope. And the intranasal insulin study is part of our hope that there will be a cure for Alzheimer's," Lehmann said.

About a dozen current clinical trials show that intranasal insulin improves memory in patients with Alzheimer's disease. Health Partners is also looking for 12 dementia patients to take part in an intranasal study.

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