Dementia breakthrough: Blood pressure wonderdrug ‘offers hope’ for ‘life-changing’ disease

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A study led by researchers at The University of Manchester found that amlodipine could increase blood flow in the brains of mice, and experts have suggested the drug could one day be repurposed for humans. Amlodipine has the potential to treat vascular dementia and might even be able to stop the disease from developing in its early stages. Professor Metin Avkiran, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation called the study a “vital step forwards towards finding new ways of stopping vascular dementia from progressing”.

Vascular dementia occurs when small blood vessels in the brain become damaged, causing them to narrow and then restrict blood flow to specific parts of the brain.

There is currently no effective clinical treatment.

But the study on mice has shown that when they were treated with amlodipine they had an improved flow of blood to parts of the brain with more activity.

The drug also caused their arteries to widen, which allowed more oxygen and nutrients to pass through.

The researchers found high blood pressure reduced the activity of a protein, Kir2.1, found in cells that line blood vessels and increase blood flow.

Amlodipine was found to restore the effectiveness of the Kir2.1 protein.

People with high blood pressure are reported to be at higher risk of developing vascular dementia.

But it is not known how exactly this increases the risk and until now, the effectiveness of different blood pressure medications had not been tested.

The new research has opened up the potential for the Kir2.1 protein to be targeted by other drugs in the future, which could offer more ways to combat the disease, the researchers said.

Following the treatment on mice, the researchers hope to trial amlodipine as a treatment for vascular dementia in humans.

Dr Adam Greenstein, clinical senior lecturer in cardiovascular sciences at the University of Manchester, who led the study, 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.”

Sara Imarisio, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “While researchers are making important progress in dementia research, there are currently no drugs available to treat the symptoms of vascular dementia or stop the underlying disease.

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“We know that high blood pressure is a risk factor for vascular dementia and looking at existing drugs targeting this is a sensible approach.

“While this research was conducted in mice and these are preliminary results, this early-stage study offers hope of a possible new way to treat vascular dementia.”

About 150,000 people suffer from vascular dementia in the UK.

It is the second most common cause of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease.

Dementia deaths have increased by 49 percent since 2013.

Professor Avkiran said: “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.

“At present, the most important thing you can do to lower your risk of the disease is to keep your blood pressure within the healthy range.

“You can get your blood pressure checked for free at your GP or local pharmacy.”

The breakthrough study was published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation and funded in part by the British Heart Foundation.

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