- Inexpensive blood pressure drug could treat vascular dementia or prevent it from developing
- A study in rats showed that amlodipine increased blood flow to the brain.
- Successful human trials may offer patients ‘hope to stop disease’
Experts say blood pressure medication can be used to treat a common type of dementia.
Scientists believe that amlodipine may also have the ability to prevent vascular dementia from developing in the first place.
Vascular dementia is caused by a decrease in blood flow to the brain, usually due to a narrowing of the vessels or a stroke.
The memory-loss condition affects about 150,000 people in the UK and about 600,000 in the US.
Researchers from the University of Manchester tested the effects of a prescription-only drug on rats with high blood pressure and damaged blood vessels.
The results showed that it widens the arteries and allows more oxygen and nutrients into the rodents’ brains.
The drug, branded as isin and amelostin, also restored the level of a protein in the lining of cells that increases blood flow to the brain.
In a study of rats by researchers at the University of Manchester, the prescription drug amlodipine, which costs as little as 4p per tablet, widened their arteries and allowed more oxygen and nutrients into the brain.
Vascular dementia is caused by decreased blood flow to the brain, which can result in narrowed blood vessels in the brain and a stroke.
What is Vascular Dementia?
Vascular dementia is a common type of dementia caused by decreased blood flow to the brain.
It is estimated to affect around 150,000 people in the UK.
Vascular dementia tends to get worse over time, although it is sometimes possible to slow it down.
The condition may start suddenly or it may start gradually over time. Symptoms include slow walking and trouble concentrating.
There is currently no cure for vascular dementia and no way to reverse any loss of brain cells that occurred before the condition was diagnosed.
But treatments — such as eating healthy, losing weight, smoking cessation and taking certain medications — can sometimes help slow vascular dementia.
Experts now hope to test amlodipine on humans after the study, which is published in Journal of Clinical Investigation.
If those studies are successful, the drug ‘could give hope to those patients to stop the progression of this life-changing disease’, he said.
There is currently no cure for vascular dementia or a way to reverse any loss of brain cells that occurs before the condition is diagnosed.
Patients are currently prescribed drugs such as statins, aspirin or clopidogrel to fight the underlying cause of the condition rather than the disease itself.
Amlodipine, which costs 4p per tablet, is given to patients with high blood pressure to prevent heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
It works by lowering blood pressure, making it easier for the heart to pump blood around the body.
The study examined blood flow in the brains of rats that had high blood pressure and vascular damage.
For testing purposes, they were assumed to have a similar profile to human patients with vascular dementia.
Those who were given amlodipine had better blood flow to the more active areas of the brain. And their arteries widened, 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 impairs the activity of a protein called Kir2.1.
Alzheimer’s breakthrough as scientists find possible cause of disease and say it may lead to ways to slow memory loss
Scientists say a possible cause of Alzheimer’s is fat-carrying particles that carry toxic proteins from the blood into the brain.
Previous research identified the accumulation of these toxic proteins — called beta-amyloid — in the brain, but it was not known where they came from or why they ended up there.
Beta-amyloid is formed when large proteins are broken down. In someone who has Alzheimer’s, these proteins clump together and form plaques that disrupt cell function.
Researchers at Curtin University in Perth, Australia, identified a ‘blood-to-brain pathway’ as a possible reason for genetically engineering mice to produce amyloid in their livers.
These mice suffered brain swelling, accelerated brain cell death and memory loss.
The experts said their findings, published in the journal PLOS Biology, is ‘important’ because it means managing amyloid levels in the blood and stopping leakage in the brain could be targeted as new treatments to prevent Alzheimer’s and slow memory loss.
Professor John Mamo, principal investigator from the Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute, said more researchers are needed, but the toxic protein can be reduced through a person’s diet.
And drugs could be made to target these proteins to reduce their risk or slow the progression of Alzheimer’s, he said.
This protein is present in the cells that line blood vessels and increases blood flow to active areas of the brain.
Amlodipine was found to restore Kir2.1 levels in rats and protect their brain from the harmful effects of high blood pressure.
The researchers said the discovery potentially presents a new way to help fight vascular dementia.
Future According to study author Dr. Adam Greenstein, treatments can target this protein to undo the damage caused by high blood pressure.
He added: ‘The way in which vascular dementia develops has remained a mystery until now, and there is currently no clinically proven treatment.
‘Patients are showing more signs of vascular dementia than ever before.
‘And with further research we can expect to potentially prevent the progression of this life-changing disease to those patients.’
Professor Matin Avkiran, Associate Medical Director of British Heart…