A drug commonly used to treat patients with obesity or type 2 diabetes may also lower brain pressure, a study has found. Raised brain pressure is common in emergency situations such as traumatic brain injury, hydrocephalus and stroke, and is also the cardinal feature of Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (IIH). IHH causes disabling daily headaches and severely raised pressure around the nerves in the eye. It also causes permanent vision loss in 25 per cent of untreated people. Over a three-year period, researchers at the University of Birmingham in the UK examined whether GLP-1 agonist drugs – existing drugs used in the treatment of diabetes and obesity – could reduce intracranial pressure in an animal model of raised brain pressure. “Treatments to lower brain pressure are lacking and new treatments are desperately needed,” Alexandra Sinclair, from the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Metabolism and Systems Research. “The current primary treatment in IIH is acetazolamide and this does not work well for many patients, while also having such severe side effects that our previous trials have shown that 48 per cent of patients stop taking it,” Sinclair said.
“We have shown that the GLP-1 agonist extendin-4 significantly reduces brain pressure rapidly and dramatically, by around 44 per cent with significant effects from just 10 minutes of dosing – the biggest reduction we have seen in anything we have previously tested. The effects last at least 24 hours, according to the study published in the journal Science translational Medicine. These findings are rapidly translatable into a novel treatment strategy for IIH as GLP-1 agonists are safe and widely-used drugs used to treat diabetes and obesity.
They are also potentially game-changing for other conditions featuring raised brain pressure, including stroke, hydrocephalus and traumatic brain injury.