Scientists at University of Manchester have discovered a common blood pressure drug could help some people with dementia.
Amlodepine has been shown to protect blood vessels in the brain from damage by a type of vascular dementia. Researchers now hope for clinical trials.
According to research part-funded by the British Heart Foundation and published today in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, 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.
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.
In what is a huge discovery, scientists found that 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.
The team now hope to trial amlodipine as an effective treatment for vascular dementia in humans, making it the first clinically proven treatment for vascular dementia if successful. It could be used in those with early signs of the condition to prevent further progression.
Dr Adam Greenstein, Clinical Senior Lecturer in Cardiovascular Sciences at the University of Manchester, who led the Manchester team, said: “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.
Professor Metin Avkiran, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation said: “The way to better understand this devastating disease and find new treatments is through research.
“This study is a vital step forward towards finding new ways of stopping vascular dementia from progressing.
“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.”