Insulin resistance and Parkinson's disease: A new target for disease modification?

Prog Neurobiol. 2016 Oct-Nov:145-146:98-120. doi: 10.1016/j.pneurobio.2016.10.001. Epub 2016 Oct 3.


There is growing evidence that patients with Type 2 diabetes have an increased risk of developing Parkinson's disease and share similar dysregulated pathways suggesting common underlying pathological mechanisms. Historically insulin was thought solely to be a peripherally acting hormone responsible for glucose homeostasis and energy metabolism. However accumulating evidence indicates insulin can cross the blood-brain-barrier and influence a multitude of processes in the brain including regulating neuronal survival and growth, dopaminergic transmission, maintenance of synapses and pathways involved in cognition. In conjunction, there is growing evidence that a process analogous to peripheral insulin resistance occurs in the brains of Parkinson's disease patients, even in those without diabetes. This raises the possibility that defective insulin signalling pathways may contribute to the development of the pathological features of Parkinson's disease, and thereby suggests that the insulin signalling pathway may potentially be a novel target for disease modification. Given these growing links between PD and Type 2 diabetes it is perhaps not unsurprising that drugs used the treatment of T2DM are amongst the most promising treatments currently being prioritised for repositioning as possible novel treatments for PD and several clinical trials are under way. In this review, we will examine the underlying cellular links between insulin resistance and the pathogenesis of PD and then we will assess current and future pharmacological strategies being developed to restore neuronal insulin signalling as a potential strategy for slowing neurodegeneration in Parkinson's disease.

Keywords: Disease modification; Insulin resistance; Neurodegeneration; Parkinson’s disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Parkinson Disease / drug therapy*
  • Parkinson Disease / metabolism*


  • Hypoglycemic Agents