This high blood pressure drug could repair blood vessels in the brain

In a new study, researchers found that propranolol, a drug that is efficacious against infantile haemangiomas (“strawberry naevi,” resembling birthmarks), can also be used to treat cerebral cavernous malformations, a condition characterized by misshapen blood vessels in the brain and elsewhere.

The research was conducted by a team at Uppsala University and elsewhere.

Cerebral cavernous malformations (CCMs, also called cavernous angiomas or cavernomas) are vascular lesions on blood vessels in the brain and elsewhere caused by genetic changes that may be hereditary or arise spontaneously.

Today, an operation to remove these lesions is the only possible treatment. However, surgical interventions in the brain are highly risky.

Since the vascular malformations, moreover, recur in the hereditary form of the condition, drug treatment for CCMs is urgently required instead.

The uses of propranolol, a beta-blocker, include treating cardiovascular diseases and conditions such as high blood pressure.

But it can also be used to treat a haemangioma (“strawberry naevus”), a common blood-vessel malformation in children.

There are some indications that the preparation might work against CCMs as well.

In the study, the team examined how propranolol affects the emergence of vascular lesions in the form of CCMs.

They examined mice with vascular malformations in the brain that corresponded to the hereditary form of the condition in humans.

The mice were given propranolol in their drinking water, and the researchers were able to see that the cavernomas were becoming fewer and smaller.

The blood vessels functioned better, too, with less leaking and improved contacts between their cells.

The propranolol dose administered to the animals was equivalent to the dose used to treat diseases in humans.

The findings suggest that propranolol can be used to shrink and stabilize vascular lesions, and maybe a potential medicine for treating CCMs.

Right now, in Italy, a clinical study is underway in which CCM patients are to get two years’ treatment with propranolol.

One author of the study is Peetra Magnusson of the University’s Department of Immunology, Genetics and Pathology.

The study is published in Stroke.

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