Scientists find an old drug could help treat dementia

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Scientists from St George’s and elsewhere found that the drug tadalafil may be effective in treating people with vascular dementia.

Dementia is an escalating global healthcare challenge, estimated to affect 55 million people worldwide, increasing to 139 million by 2050.

There are few treatment options for dementia patients, and this study explored whether repurposing an existing drug, tadalafil, may have the potential for treating vascular dementia—a common type of dementia in which there is reduced blood flow to the brain.

Previous research found that sildenafil and vardenafil, drugs commonly used to increase blood flow in pulmonary hypertension (a form of lung disease), could be possible candidates for preventing or delaying dementia.

Tadalafil belongs to the same group of drugs, and the researchers hypothesize that the mechanisms that increase blood flow in other parts of the body, may also apply in the brain—providing brain cells with a healthier blood supply and reducing dementia symptoms.

Tadalafil was selected as the drug candidate for the trial because of its longer half-life (remaining in the bloodstream for longer) and evidence that it is better able to enter the brain than its related drugs.

In the study, researchers found a trend for increased blood flow in older participants (those aged over 70) in the white matter of the brain, which is the area most important for vascular dementia.

No serious adverse events were recorded during the trial, suggesting the drug is relatively safe for patients.

The team believes that further work on tadalafil should be considered to explore its effectiveness in older age groups over a longer time period.

If you care about dementia, please read studies that your walking speed may tell your risk of dementia, and these high blood pressure drugs could prevent dementia.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about nutrient that may protect your brain and prevent dementia, and results showing this supplement could keep dementia at bay.

The research is published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia and was conducted by Dr. Jeremy Isaacs et al.

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