Past studies have shown that having diabetes increases one’s risk for Alzheimer’s disease and can accelerate the disease’s progression. The cause of this relationship between the two diseases is currently unclear. Funded by the Alzheimer’s Association, West Virginia University’s Miranda Reed received a $97,000 for her research to understand why diabetes increases an individual’s risk for Alzheimer’s disease and how to make effective medications for these diseases.

In her research, Reed is creating a mouse model for both Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes in order to understand the neurological process of these diseases together. Mice are used so Reed can examine their behavior, brain functions and treatment in a controlled environment. With her data, she can relate the experiences of mice to humans so that further progress can be made in understanding the relationship between the two diseases.

The presence of both diseases in humans is expected to increase as people continue to live longer. According to Reed, most people with Alzheimer’s have an additional disease, such as diabetes. The frequency of both Alzheimer’s and diabetes continues to increase as people continue to live longer. Reed’s research is focused on managing and treating these two diseases together.

It is not known if the current Alzheimer’s disease medicine has the same effect on those who just have Alzheimer’s and on those who have Alzheimer’s combined with another disease. Reed’s creation of such a mouse model with multiple diseases allows her to test the effects of medications before any drugs are created, dispensed and used by the general public.

To observe the effects, Reed’s goal is to identify a novel pathway in the brain that is modified or changed when mice have both Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes compared to mice with only one of these diseases. By finding a change in the pathway when the two diseases are present, medications can be altered to target the specific area of the brain to work effectively.

“By testing drugs in a mouse model of both diseases, we can better identify successful therapeutics, or treatments, as well as rule out the therapeutics that may work well when an individual has only one disease but does not work well when an individual has both diseases,” Reed said. “By identifying pathways in the brain altered when mice have Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes, we can identify therapeutic targets.”

Reed expects to see a worsening of Alzheimer’s disease pathways in the brain in mice with both diabetes and Alzheimer’s compared to mice that only have Alzheimer’s. This information will help in future studies and the creation of drugs that can be used with humans with Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes. Future studies will use this information to focus on ways to decrease the effect of diabetes on Alzheimer’s disease risk and progression.

Reed will be working with two graduate students, Holly Hunsberger and Carolyn Rudy, from the behavioral neuroscience program. Reed is an assistant professor in behavioral neuroscience in the WVU Department of Psychology. She received her doctorate in experimental psychology from Auburn University in 2007.

For more information, contact Miranda Reed, at 304-293-1787 or



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