New research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has identified a key cause of the restricted blood flow to the brain associated with vascular dementia, which may present a route to developing the first pharmaceutical treatment for the disease.
Vascular dementia is the second-most common form of dementia, and no treatments currently exist. Hypertension (high blood pressure) is the primary cause of vascular dementia, and the condition is associated with reduced cerebral blood flow. However, the relationship between hypertension and reduced cerebral blood flow is not well understood. In this study, researchers studied vascular disfunction in mice with hypertension who exhibited reduced cerebral blood flow and cognitive disfunction to explore the relationship.
The results showed that high blood pressure in the mice caused disruptions in messaging in artery cells in the brain. The disrupted messaging was caused by two structures in the arteries moving farther apart. Because of the disrupted messaging, the arteries stayed permanently constricted and limited blood flow to the brain. This mechanism represents a promising avenue for drug development, since it may be possible to develop a drug that restores the signaling.
The authors of the study noted that this research could lead to the first treatment for vascular dementia, which affects hundreds of thousands of patients. Drugs that improve blood flow to the brain could also be useful in treating Alzheimer’s disease, which similarly has limited treatment options. High blood pressure and arterial issues are a key cause of both dementia and heart issues. Because of this, addressing hypertension through either pharmaceutical treatments or lifestyle interventions is an important component of overall health and longevity.