A research team discovered that Nilvadipine could help in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. The study observed a 20% increase in hippocampal blood flow with no effect on blood flow to other regions of the brain.
Millions of people worldwide suffer from dementia. According to “Alzheimer's Disease International” (ADI), almost 50 million people were affected by the disease in 2017. Since the organization expects the number to double every 20 years, some 75 million Alzheimer's patients are likely by 2030.
A research team looking for drugs to slow down the disease discovered that nilvadipine can have a positive effect on blood flow to the brain. The aim of the latest study was to investigate the effects of the drug on 44 participants with mild to moderate forms of Alzheimer's disease.
"No medical treatment is completely risk-free, but high blood pressure medications could be effective in maintaining brain health in Alzheimer's patients," says lead study author Dr. Jurgen Claasen from the Radbound University Medical Center in Nijmegen, Netherlands.
The researchers randomly gave the participants nilvadipine or a placebo and let them take the drugs for 6 months. With the help of MRIs, the researchers observed the blood flow to certain regions of the brain at the beginning and end of the study.
Among the participants who took nilvadipine, the results showed a 20 percent increase in hippocampal blood flow. The treatment had no effect on blood flow to other regions of the brain. Dr. Claasen notes: "This drug treatment is promising because it does not reduce the blood flow to the brain, which could have very harmful effects.
In previous studies conducted between 2013 and 2015 in different European cities, a research team compared the effects of nilvadipine and placebo in over 500 patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease. However, the team did not record the effects on brain blood flow and therefore did not see any success with nilvadipine. However, in a subgroup of the study with mild symptoms, a slower memory loss was observed.
The number of participants and the follow-up time were too short in the current study in order to investigate in detail the effects of nilvadipine on brain regions affected by Alzheimer's disease. However, despite the small size of the study, it is one of the few studies that used MRIs to investigate the effect of high blood pressure medications on blood flow to the brain.
The researchers believe that the use of this technique in a larger study is a step in the right direction. Dr. Claasen notes: "In the future, we need to find out whether an improvement in blood flow - especially in the hippocampus - can be used as a treatment to slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease. This is particularly true for the early phases of the disease."
Effects of Nilvadipine on Cerebral Blood Flow in Patients With Alzheimer Disease. A Randomized Trial. In: Hypertension
Daan L.K. de Jong, Rianne A.A. de Heus, Anne Rijpma, Rogier Donders, Marcel G.M. Olde Rikkert, Matthias Günther, Brian A. Lawlor, Matthias J.P. van Osch, Jurgen A.H.R. Claassen