British scientists have raised hopes for vascular dementia sufferers after discovering that a drug used to treat high blood pressure could be used to combat the disease.
Researchers at the University of Manchester say amlodipine could be repurposed to slow the incurable condition after testing its efficacy on mice.
Vascular dementia is caused by reduced blood flow to the brain, which ultimately kills brain cells and can be a result of the narrowing and blockage of small blood vessels in the brain. Its link to high blood pressure has long been the subject of research.
This was the first time the effects of a range of blood-pressure medication on these damaged arteries were tested.
The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, found that mice treated with amlodipine had better blood flow to more active areas of the brain.
Researchers found the drug allowed their arteries to widen, leading to increased oxygen flow to affected parts of the brain.
Amlodipine was found to restore the activity of a special protein known as Kir2.1, which is present in cells lining the blood vessels and protects the brain from the harmful effects of high blood pressure.
The team aims to run clinical trials in humans. If successful, it would be the first approved drug to help the condition that affects millions of people worldwide.
Prof Metin Avkiran, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said the study was “a vital step forward towards finding new ways of stopping vascular dementia from progressing”.
Dr Adam Greenstein, clinical senior lecturer in cardiovascular sciences at the University of Manchester, who led the research team, said the way vascular dementia develops has "remained a mystery until now".
"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.”