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Blood pressure drug may treat early Alzheimer's disease

The drug Atacand was shown to reduce cell damage linked to the progression of the disease.
By Stephen Feller   |   Jan. 29, 2016 at 4:34 PM

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29 (UPI) -- The blood pressure drug candesartan, sold as Atacand, was shown to reduce cell damage linked to the progression of Alzheimer's disease, according to a new study.

Angiotensin receptor blockers such as Atacand are one of several drugs used to control blood pressure. Previous studies have shown patients with high blood pressure treated with several drugs were at lower risk to develop Alzheimer's or to develop it more slowly.

"Our findings make sense in many ways," said Dr. Juan Saavedra, a researcher at Georgetown University, in a press release. "Hypertension reduces blood flow throughout the body and brain and is a risk factor of Alzheimer's disease. Previous epidemiological studies found that Alzheimer's progression is delayed in hypertensive patients treated with ARBs."

For the study, published in Alzheimer's Research and Therapy, the researchers exposed neuronal cultures excessive glutamate, an injury factor that causes neurons to die, and treated them with candesartan. The drug prevented glutamate from killing the neurons.

In later analysis, the researchers found the drug prevented inflammation and other processes that contribute to neuronal death, including changes to amyloid metabolism -- important becauase the build-up of amyloid plaques plays a role in the progress of Alzheimer's disease.

Researchers also compared their lab results with autopsy samples from Alzheimer's patients, finding the expression of genes altered by excess glutamate matched damage in the patients' brains.

"We hypothesize that candesartan, or other members of the ARB group, may not only slow progression of Alzheimer's but also prevent or delay its development," Saavedra said of the drug with is already approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, making the path to clinical trials for the use easier and faster.

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