Targeting Insulin for Alzheimer's Disease: Mechanisms, Status and Potential Directions

Jung Hyun Lee, Jordan B. Jahrling, Larry Denner, Kelly T. Dineley

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Insulin resistance can occur when the body is unable to respond to insulin even in excess. In the brain, insulin manages glucose metabolism in regions such as the hippocampus and plays a key role in directly regulating ERK, a kinase required for the type of memory compromised in early Alzheimer's disease (AD). Human imaging studies show that brain glucose utilization declines with age and is notably impaired in subjects with early AD. Likewise, animal models of AD or insulin resistance, or both, demonstrate that dysfunctional insulin signaling and insulin resistance in the brain have reciprocity with neuroinflammation and aberrant accumulation of amyloid-β (Aβ), pathological hallmarks in AD. As such, the association between brain insulin activity and AD has led to clinical trials testing the efficacy of insulin and insulin-sensitizing drugs to intervene in AD. Based on recent inquiries to, we evaluated thirty-three clinical studies related to AD and insulin. The search filtered for interventional clinical trials to test FDA-approved drugs or substances that impinge upon the insulin signaling pathway. Insulin, metformin, and thiazolidinediones were the three main interventions assessed. Overall, these strategies are expected to negate the effects of brain insulin resistance by targeting insulin signaling pathways involved in neuroinflammation, metabolic homeostasis, synaptic functional and structural integrity. The goal of this review is to provide an update on insulin and ERK signaling in relation to memory, its decline in early AD, and provide an overview of clinical trials related to insulin for early AD intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S427-S453
JournalJournal of Alzheimer's Disease
Issue numbers1
StatePublished - 2018


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • ERK
  • PPARγ
  • animal model
  • clinical trials
  • insulin resistance
  • learning and memory
  • metabolism
  • mitochondria

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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