An enzyme has been linked to a drop in blood flow to the brain - commonly seen in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
Previous studies suggest that the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s have increased amounts of amyloid beta peptide - thought to cause a narrowing of the vessels and reduction of blood flow in the brain.
Researchers from the University of Bristol now say that endothelin converting enzyme-2 (ECE-2) may contribute to the progression of the disease by converting an inactive precursor to endothelin-1, which constricts blood vessels and further reduces blood flow.
Writing in the the American Journal of Pathology, study leader Jennifer Palmer said: ‘Our findings raise the possibility that drugs that can block the actions of endothelin-1 and which are already licensed for treating other diseases may also be of benefit for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.’
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, affecting over half a million people in the UK - will numbers predicted to double in the next 20 years.
Mark Poarch, chief executive of Bristol-based charity BRACE, which funded much of the study, said: ‘This is real progress and opens up new areas for research. It is also good news for the thousands of local people who have raised money to try to beat Alzheimer’s.’