WASHINGTON, July 4 (Xinhua) -- A study published on Wednesday in the journal Science Translational Medicine revealed a potential approach to treat one of the commonest causes of dementia and stroke in older people.
Experiments with rats found the treatment could reverse changes in blood vessels in the brain associated with the condition, called cerebral small vessel disease, and also prevent damage to brain cells caused by blood vessel changes, raising the hope that it could offer a therapy for dementia.
Small vessel disease, or SVD, is a major cause of dementia and can worsen the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. It is also a major cause of stroke, accounting for around one in five cases.
A team led by the University of Edinburgh found that SVD occurred when cells that line the small blood vessels in the brain become dysfunctional, then secreting a molecule into the brain.
The molecule stops production of the protective layer that surrounds brain cells, called myelin, which leads to brain damage, according to the study.
Treating rats with drugs that stop blood vessel cells from becoming dysfunctional reversed the symptoms of SVD and prevented brain damage, the tests found.
Researchers said that further studies may test whether the treatment also worked when the disease was firmly established.
In addition, they would need to check if the treatment can reverse the symptoms of dementia.