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A new trial conducted by the University of Oxford reveals that sildenafil, commonly known as Viagra, enhances blood flow to the brain and improves the function of brain blood vessels in patients at a heightened risk of vascular dementia.

Illustration in blue of a person with brain shining in red color.

This new study, published in Circulation Research, marks a potentially pivotal step in the fight against this debilitating condition.

Dr. Alastair Webb, as Associate Professor at the Wolfson Centre for Prevention of Stroke and Dementia at Oxford University said: 'This is the first trial to show that sildenafil gets into the blood vessels in the brain in people with this condition, improving blood flow and how responsive these blood vessels are. These two key factors are associated with chronic damage to the small blood vessels in the brain, which is the commonest cause of vascular dementia. This demonstrates the potential of this well-tolerated, widely-available drug to prevent dementia, which needs testing in larger trials'.

The significance of this research lies in its potential to transform the treatment and prevention of vascular dementia, which currently lacks specific therapies. Chronic damage to the small blood vessels in the brain is not only the leading cause of vascular dementia but also contributes to 30% of strokes and 80% of brain bleeds. High blood pressure, reduced blood flow to the brain, and impaired blood vessel function exacerbate these conditions, making the findings of this trial particularly crucial.

The OxHARP trial was a meticulously designed double-blind, placebo-controlled study involving 75 participants who had experienced a minor stroke and showed signs of mild to moderate small vessel disease. Each participant received sildenafil, a placebo, and cilostazol (a similar drug) over three-week periods in a randomised order. The study employed cardiovascular physiology tests, ultrasound, and functional MRI scans to evaluate the drugs' effects.

Read the full news on the University of Oxford website.

 

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