Dementia and diabetes are two of the most common and disabling conditions worldwide, responsible for an enormous and growing burden of disease. There is increasing awareness that the two conditions are linked, with cognitive impairment (worsening memory, thinking and perception) common in people with diabetes, and a strong association between diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease – the most common form of dementia.

Individuals with diabetes are known to have greater rates of brain volume loss with aging, but it is not known which patients will develop dementia over time, and which factors will predict cognitive impairment in these patients. Therefore, biological markers are needed to better manage the complications of diabetes. Left ventricular hypertrophy is an enlargement and thickening of the left lower chamber of the heart, which is common in patients with diabetes and a strong independent predictor of heart failure, stroke and death. There is also evidence that diabetes and heart disease may accelerate the production of two proteins named beta-amyloid and tau, and the increased deposition of these in the brain is associated with Alzheimer’s disease. To date, no studies have investigated the association between left ventricular hypertrophy, brain aging, cognitive impairment, amyloid and tau aggregation in people with diabetes.

In this study we will establish whether people with diabetes and left ventricular hypertrophy have a higher amyloid and/or tau burden in their brains, compared to people with diabetes but without left ventricular hypertrophy. We will also establish whether amyloid and tau levels are associated with brain volume and thinking skills in these two groups.

Dr Carolina Restrepo accepted the award on behalf of A/Professor Amy Brodtmann