Emory to begin new clinical trial to determine if a blood pressure drug reduces Alzheimer's risk in African-Americans

Woodruff Health Sciences Center | March 12, 2015

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Robin Reese
404-727-9371
robin.j.reese@emory.edu

Researchers at Emory University will soon begin a clinical trial to determine if one class of drugs used to lower blood pressure may also reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease in African-Americans. The $600,000 Alzheimer’s Association research grant was awarded to Whitney Wharton, PhD, assistant professor of neurology at Emory University School of Medicine.

Blood pressure medications known as ARBs, angiotensin-receptor blockers, have been associated with reduced risk of Alzheimer’s in people of European ancestry because they act on the renin-angiotensin system (RAS), which is a key regulator of blood pressure in the body and the brain. The drugs appear to slow the progression of the disease by affecting flow of blood and the amount of plaque in the brain.

This class of drug, however, is not indicated for lowering blood pressure in African-Americans, and therefore is prescribed less often. The study hopes to determine if ARBs will have the same beneficial result on Alzheimer’s risk in African-Americans. Wharton plans to test the effect of Telmisartan, a drug that targets the RAS, in middle-aged African-Americans who have high blood pressure and a parent with Alzheimer’s disease. 

"Not only are African-Americans at higher risk for vascular problems such as high blood pressure and diabetes, they are also twice as likely to be afflicted with Alzheimer’s than Caucasians," says Wharton. "We are hopeful this trial could help to prevent the disease in those most at risk, and will hopefully lead to more targeted, personalized health care in these individuals."

Participants who wish to take part in the trial must be 45 years old or older, have a biological parent with Alzheimer’s disease, have high blood pressure, be cognitively normal and be willing to undergo an MRI of the brain and have a lumbar puncture. As a double-blind study, the participants will be unaware of whether they are receiving the drug Telmisartan or a placebo.

Interested individuals should contact Veronique King at (404) 712-7085 or v.king@emory.edu to determine if they are eligible.