What wonderful news, when you read things like this. It gives hope to many in year to come
A BLOOD pressure pill which is taken by tens of thousands of patients could be the key to beating Alzheimer’s disease.
British scientists believe the 3p a day tablet could slow progression of the disease and even combat devastating memory loss.
Experts at the University of Bristol hope the drug losartan will be so effective that high blood pressure patients could routinely be given it to protect long-term against Alzheimer’s.
The university’s Dr Pat Kehoe is launching a ground-breaking four-year £2million UK trial.
He said: “Without wishing to get ahead of ourselves, the beauty of this drug, if it is found to work as we expect, is that it is already available and is cheap.”
Previous research has found that people on losartan for high blood pressure also appeared to be significantly protected against dementia – in fact, it is thought to slash the risk by as much as 50 per cent.
Now the scientists hope to test the drug on dementia sufferers. They believe losartan could slow down Alzheimer’s by improving blood flow in the brain and altering chemical pathways that cause brain cell damage, brain shrinkage and memory problems.
The losartan clinical trial will be hosted by North Bristol NHS Trust and led by academics from Bristol, Cambridge and Queen’s Belfast universities.
Dr Kehoe, joint group head of the Dementia Research Group at Bristol, said: “Existing Alzheimer’s treatments only temporarily treat specific imbalances in the brain but there is no cure.
“The trial, which involves dementia research centres in at least 10 cities in the UK, should provide the first real evidence of losartan’s potential benefit.”
The ultimate test of any potential new treatment strategy is success in clinical trials, so it is encouraging to see this trial getting underway.
Speaking about losartan he said: “People who have high blood pressure could be prescribed this much earlier in life when we know some of the early changes of Alzheimer’s can occur but cannot easily detect because the memory problems haven’t manifested.”
Earlier studies have shown that reduced brain blood flow is a common and early feature in Alzheimer’s and contributes to memory failure.
Losartan, and related drugs working in a similar way, have been found to block a naturally occurring chemical called angiotensin II which prevents the release of vital memory chemicals in the brain.
The new trial will use brain imaging on an estimated 230 patients to measure if losartan helps to reduce brain shrinkage that is strongly linked with reduced memory function and discover if the drug improves memory and quality of life.
With one in three Britons over 65 known to be likely to develop the degenerative brain disorder, the fight to find an effective treatment is becoming ever more urgent.
Dr Simon Ridley, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “The ultimate test of any potential new treatment strategy is success in clinical trials, so it is encouraging to see this trial getting underway.
“Alzheimer’s Research UK funded some early research into this area and we are very interested to see whether the findings from these studies will translate into patient benefits.”
Alzheimer’s is the cause of more than half of the cases of dementia that affects approximately 800,000 people in the UK.
Progression of the disease can be slowed if drugs are taken immediately there are signs of mental impairment.
Early drug treatment can delay the onset of the more severe symptoms, such as communication problems, loss of memory and mood swings.
The same risk factors for heart disease in middle age – such as smoking and high blood pressure – also accelerate the decline of brain function.
Around 60,000 people take losartan in the UK each year to lower high blood pressure.