In a new study, researchers found the blood pressure drug nilvadipine could increase blood flow to the brain’s memory and learning center among people with Alzheimer’s disease.
The drug may slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease without affecting other parts of the brain.
The research was conducted by a team from Radboud University Medical Center in the Netherlands.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. The risk for the disease increases with age and the causes are largely unknown.
Previous research has shown that blood flow to the brain declines in early Alzheimer’s disease.
Nilvadipine is a calcium channel blocker used to treat high blood pressure.
In the new study, the team aimed to see whether nilvadipine could help treat Alzheimer’s disease.
They compared the use of nilvadipine and a placebo among people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.
They randomly assigned 44 participants to receive either nilvadipine or a placebo for six months.
At the study’s start and after six months, the team measured blood flow to specific regions of the brain using a unique magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique.
They found that the known decrease in cerebral blood flow in patients with Alzheimer’s can be reversed in some regions by the drug.
One region is the hippocampus, which is the brain’s memory and learning center.
The blood flow increased by 20% in the region among the nilvadipine group compared to the placebo group.
Blood flow to other brain regions was unchanged in both groups.
The team explains that this high blood pressure treatment holds promise to treat Alzheimer’s as it doesn’t appear to decrease blood flow to the brain, which could cause more harm than benefit.
Getting treatment for high blood pressure could be important to maintain brain health in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
Future work needs to find out whether this observed increase in cerebral blood flow translates to clinical benefits.
The lead author of the study is Jurgen Claassen, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor at Radboud University Medical Center.
The study is published in the American Heart Association’s journal Hypertension.
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