Blood pressure drugs derived from snake venom could be used to slow the progress of dementia.
Trials are under way to assess whether the medication can have an impact on the speed at which the condition progresses.
The drugs – known as ACE inhibitors – have already shown they can alter learning, memory and mood.
Some are developed from the venom of snakes such as vipers, which can dilate blood vessels and lower blood pressure.
It now seems these drugs may become an important weapon in fighting dementia – which is one of the biggest challenges to global healthcare and affects 35 million people around the world.
Professor Paul Gard from the University of Brighton is one of a number of scientists whose studies have shown how the medicines can change mental functions.
He will be discussing his research into Alzheimer’s at his inaugural lecture later this month.
Prof Gard, who specialises in experimental therapeutics, said: “An off-shoot has been to explore whether potential treatments for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease might also be useful in helping children with impaired learning.
“In Europe, approximately one per cent of children suffer with foetal alcohol syndrome, a condition involving learning difficulties associated with excessive alcohol intake by their mothers during pregnancy.
“Research is being undertaken to investigate whether the use of angiotensin-related treatments (blood pressure medication) by the mother during pregnancy or by the infant soon after birth might be able to prevent the effects of the pre-natal alcohol exposure.”
There are more than 24,400 people in Sussex believed to have dementia and this is expected to rise to more than 33,700 in the next eight years.
Prof Gard’s lecture is at the university’s Huxley Building in Queensdown School Road, Brighton, on March 28 at 6.30pm.
Entry is free and people can register by clicking here.