It’s what a group of fifty older people are about to find out. They will be taking part in a clinical trial in London to discover whether the Viagra style drug Tadalafil, could help prevent the onset of vascular dementia by increasing blood flow to the brain. [i]
Vascular damage is the second most common cause of dementia in the UK. It is often caused by damage to the small blood vessels of the brain leading to reduced blood flow to brain tissue.
The group will include over 65 year olds who have evidence of blood vessel damage, known as small vessel disease, following a stroke or who are experiencing mild memory loss.
Presumably the trail will include both male and female volunteers, though it won’t include those who have already been diagnosed with dementia.
Researchers will measure blood flow to the brain before and after a single dose of Tadalafil. They will also be able to trace the amount of blood reaching different areas of the brain tissue.
Leading the research team is Dr Atticus Hainsworth, Senior Lecturer in Cerebrovascular Disease at St George’s University of London. He said he is keen to know whether the drug that produces good blow flow in one part of the body can produce it also in the vital organ of the brain.
It’s almost a case of ‘back to the future’, as the drug was initially researched in the 1990s as a possible heart medicine. [ii] It was during the trail that its other, now more widely known effect on men became evident.
Prevention is always better than cure, and the importance of maintaining good blood flow to the brain is emphasized in many findings. One of the most encouraging recent studies has shown the benefits of exercise for the brain: exercise ‘grows brain cells’ and can even reverse the shrinkage that can be part of ageing.