JUL 12, 2018 05:52 AM PDT

Understanding Vascular Dementia

Dementia is a growing problem for healthcare providers, patients, and families. It’s estimated that 47 million people are living with dementia worldwide. The numbers are going nowhere but up and with an expected doubling every year, there could be more than 115 million people with some form of dementia by the year 2050.

Not all dementia is the same, however. In Alzheimer’s disease, it’s caused by tangles of tau proteins that interfere with cognition. Another common form of dementia is called cerebral small vessel disease or SVD, which is caused when something prevents blood flow to a part of the brain. It can be a clot or a stroke or damaged blood vessels, but this form of dementia often called “vascular dementia” is also difficult to assess and treat.

Researchers at the Centre for Regenerative Medicine in the UK think they may have found a treatment for SVD which can reverse the changes in blood vessels in the brain and hopefully be used therapeutically for patients with dementia. The study used lab rats, however, the results are promising. Patients are diagnosed with SVD when a brain scan shows damage to white matter as a result of a loss of blood flow to parts of the brain. Understanding how this occurs, at the cellular level, is what makes the new study so significant.

The team, led by Professor Anna Williams, found that cells that line blood vessels become dysfunctional, sometimes due to injury or disease, and when these cells do not work properly, a molecule is secreted into the brain. This molecule damages the protective covering that surrounds brain cells. This covering, called myelin, has one job: to protect brain cells. When it deteriorates, the brain cells it’s meant to shield can be damaged and can die. The scientists at the CRM developed a drug that kept the cells lining the blood vessels from malfunctioning. It worked well and was able to reverse some of the symptoms of SVD, but it still needs to be tested to see if it will work in later stages of the disease and if the effect will translate in human trials.

Professor Williams stated, “This important research helps us understand why small vessel disease happens, providing a direct link between small blood vessels and changes in the brain that are linked to dementia. It also shows that these changes may be reversible, which paves the way for potential treatments.” The research is published in the journal Science Translational Medicine and was funded by the UK’s Medical Research Council, Alzheimer’s Research UK, and Fondation Leducq. With no viable treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and some pharmaceutical companies shutting down research into the disease, it’s even more important for clinical research to continue to try and find a way to beat this devastating disease. Check out the video to hear from Professor Williams about the work.

Sources: Science Translational Medicine, Centre for Regenerative Medicine

About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
You May Also Like
JUL 11, 2018
Clinical & Molecular DX
JUL 11, 2018
Certain tests better flag fetuses with brain disorder risk
Fetuses with a specific, rare chromosomal aberration have a 20 percent risk of developmental or other brain disorder, new research shows. The work could le...
JUL 18, 2018
Neuroscience
JUL 18, 2018
Artificial Intelligence for Diagnosing and Typing Tumors
While most think of artificial intelligence (AI) as the stuff of sci-fi movies and futuristic novels, it actually has many medical applications. From brain...
AUG 01, 2018
Health & Medicine
AUG 01, 2018
Let Food Be Thy Medicine: The Field of Nutritional Psychiatry
Many people eat a certain way to improve athletic performance. They choose low-carb or some other way of eating in hopes it might improve their mile time o...
AUG 15, 2018
Videos
AUG 15, 2018
What Your Doodles Say About You
During a boring meeting, a teleconference or a less-than-interesting class, many of us will doodle mindlessly on paper. It’s a way of passing the tim...
AUG 22, 2018
Neuroscience
AUG 22, 2018
Testing For Cognitive Decline Made Easier
In any form of disease, the sooner a diagnosis is found, the sooner treatment can begin. Finding a health problem early is the best way to increase the cha...
SEP 13, 2018
Neuroscience
SEP 13, 2018
Can Nerve Stimulation Treat Depression?
Depression is a significant mental health disorder that thousands of people suffer from on a daily basis. According to the CDC, the prevalence of depressio...
Loading Comments...