Exercise-induced hormone may treat Alzheimer’s disease

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In a promising development for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) research, scientists from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) have used a 3D human cell culture model to investigate the effects of the muscle hormone irisin on amyloid beta pathology.

The study, published in the journal Neuron, offers valuable insights into the possible benefits of irisin-based therapies for combating AD.

The Exercise Connection

Previous research has indicated that physical exercise can reduce the accumulation of amyloid beta deposits, a hallmark of AD.

The muscle-derived hormone irisin, which is increased during exercise, has been identified as a possible factor behind this phenomenon. Irisin is known to regulate glucose and lipid metabolism and to increase energy expenditure.

The Study

Led by Se Hoon Choi, Ph.D., and Eun Hee Kim, Ph.D., the MGH team applied irisin to their 3D cell culture model of AD to explore its effects. The model already displayed two significant features of AD: amyloid beta deposits and tau tangles.

Reduction in Amyloid Beta: The researchers found that treating the model with irisin significantly reduced amyloid beta levels.

Role of Neprilysin: The effect was attributed to increased activity of neprilysin, an enzyme that degrades amyloid beta. Irisin triggered astrocytes, a type of brain cell, to secrete more neprilysin.

Mechanistic Details: The team identified the specific receptor that irisin binds to on astrocytes and found that this binding reduced signaling in pathways involving the ERK and STAT3 proteins, which was crucial for enhancing neprilysin levels.

Given that irisin can cross the blood-brain barrier, the findings open up the possibility of irisin-based therapies for AD.

“Our study suggests that irisin is a major mediator in reducing amyloid beta burden, presenting a new pathway for preventive and therapeutic strategies for Alzheimer’s disease,” says Rudolph Tanzi, Ph.D., a senior author of the study.


The MGH study brings hope for understanding the mechanisms through which exercise benefits AD patients and provides a compelling case for further investigation into irisin-based treatments.

The findings could pave the way for innovative therapies aimed at preventing and treating Alzheimer’s disease.

If you care about Alzheimer’s disease, please read studies that bad lifestyle habits can cause Alzheimer’s disease, and this new drug may help treat Alzheimer’s disease.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about a new early sign of Alzheimer’s disease, and results showing this brain problem can increase risk of stroke for up to five years.

The research findings can be found in Neuron.

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