Common high blood pressure drug may treat vascular dementia

Credit: Pavel Danilyuk/ Pexels

The way vascular dementia develops has remained a mystery until now, and there are currently no clinically proven treatments.

Patients are presenting with symptoms of vascular dementia earlier than ever before, and with further research we could potentially offer those patients hope to prevent the progression of this life-changing disease.

In a study from the University of Manchester, scientists 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 in 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.

The effectiveness of different types of blood pressure medication on these arteries has also never been directly tested.

Now, researchers have discovered that the blood pressure drug amlodipine could help treat vascular dementia or stop it in the early stages.

In the study, 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.

The 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.

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 blood pressure, please read studies about cannabis linked to 3-times higher death risk in high blood pressure, and this common plant nutrient could help reduce high blood pressure.

For more information on brain health, please see recent studies about Vitamin D deficiency linked to higher dementia risk, and scientists find a new way to treat dementia.

The study was conducted by Dr Adam Greenstein et al and published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

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