(RxWiki News) A stroke can can cause neurological damage depending on the area of the brain affected. Researchers may have found a way to treat that brain damage and even reverse a significant portion.
A compound that has been developed by University of Copenhagen investigators binds 1,000 times more effectively to a target protein in the brain and could reduce cell death in the brain by 40 percent.
The chemical compound already is being tested in stroke patients.
"Seek immediate medical attention if a stroke is suspected."
Anders Bach, medicinal chemist at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences at the University of Copenhagen, said that previous research in animal models showed that the compound was more biologically effective than another potent drug currently in clinical trials.
During a stroke the brain releases large quantities of glutamate, overactivating receptors in nearby healthy tissue. This causes calcium levels to rise substantially in cells, prompting cell death and in some cases brain damage following a stroke.
The chemical compound developed by researchers helps limit cell death by penetrating through the blood-brain barrier, a challenge in developing drugs to treat brain damage.
"Our compound is able to pass through the blood-brain barrier, but also interesting is that it improves motor function in the animals that have been subject to stroke, for example, seen as increased grip strength in the paws of the mice," said Bach.
Previous drug development efforts focused on blocking receptors for signal compounds in the brain, including glutamate. However, this method came with unacceptable side effects and negatively impacted the normal function of the receptors. The new compound instead plays upon the interaction between the NMDA receptor and cell protein PSD-95.
In order to measure the extent of binding to PSD-95, investigators developed a method called fluorescence polarization, which also allows them to determine how the compounds bind to the protein.
"Although we are very satisfied with the new results in terms of the possible treatment of brain damage due to stroke, many things can go wrong in the long drug development process. So even though the compound binds effectively in laboratory studies and shows promising biological activity in animal models, we will still have many challenges to overcome," Bach said.
The compound also could prove useful in treating Alzheimer's disease or chronic pain since both involve the PSD-95 protein. Results of an ongoing clinical trial have not yet been published.
The study was recently published in journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.