In a new study from the University of Manchester, researchers found a drug already used to treat high blood pressure could be re-purposed as the first treatment to tackle a type of vascular dementia caused by damaged and ‘leaky’ small blood vessels in the brain.
High blood pressure is known to be the main risk factor for developing vascular dementia. However, the way that high blood pressure damages the small blood vessels, causing them to narrow and restrict blood flow to specific areas of the brain, has been unknown.
In the study, the team discovered that the blood pressure drug amlodipine could help treat vascular dementia or stop it in the early stages.
They looked at blood flow in the brains of mice with high blood pressure and vascular damage in the brain. Mice treated with amlodipine had better blood flow to more active areas of the brain.
Their arteries were able to widen, allowing more oxygen and nutrients to reach the parts of the brain that needed it most.
The team also discovered for the first time that high blood pressure decreases the activity of a protein called Kir2.1 that is present in cells lining the blood vessels and increases blood flow to active areas of the brain.
Amlodipine was found to restore the activity of Kir2.1 and protect the brain from the harmful effects of high blood pressure.
Researchers say that this protein could also be targeted by other drugs in the future, presenting a potential additional way to help fight the disease.
These new discoveries highlight the major role that high blood pressure plays in developing the disease and shed light on how this occurs and might be prevented in the future.
The team now hopes to trial amlodipine as an effective treatment for vascular dementia in humans.
If successful, it would be the first clinically proven treatment for vascular dementia as a result of small vessel disease and could be used in those with early signs of the condition to prevent further progression.
If you care about dementia, please read studies about these personality traits may protect you from dementia and findings of if your memory feels like it’s not what it once was, it could mean future dementia.
For more information about dementia and your health, please see recent studies about why type 2 diabetes is linked to higher risk of cancer and dementia and results showing that eating plenty of apples, berries and tea linked to lower risk.
The study is published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. One author of the study is Dr Adam Greenstein.
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