Hypertension drug Nilvadipine found to increase the blood flow to the brain’s memory and learning centers in Alzheimer’s patients without affecting other parts of the brain, according to the researchers who published their findings in the American Heart Association’s journal Hypertension.
These findings indicate that the known decrease in cerebral blood flow in patients with Alzheimer’s can be reversed in some regions. However, an important question is whether this observed increase in cerebral blood flow translates to clinical benefits, the authors note.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. The risk for the disease increases with age and the causes are largely unknown. Previous research has shown that blood flow to the brain declines in early Alzheimer’s disease.
Nilvadipine is a calcium channel blocker used to treat high blood pressure. Researchers sought to discover whether nilvadipine could help treat Alzheimer’s disease by comparing the use of nilvadipine and a placebo among people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers randomly assigned 44 participants to receive either nilvadipine or a placebo for six months. Neither researchers nor the participants knew who received the drug or the placebo that was evenly divided among the two groups. At the study’s start and after six months, researchers measured blood flow to specific regions of the brain using a unique magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique.
Results showed that blood flow to the hippocampus – the brain’s memory and learning center – increased by 20% among the nilvadipine group compared to the placebo group. Blood flow to other regions of the brain was unchanged in both groups.