New drug shows reduced post-stroke brain damage risk in mice

A new drug has shown promise in mouse trials as a way to help prevent and reduce brain damage after a stroke, according to scientists at the University of Missouri and the University of Notre Dame.

The name of the new compound is a mouthful--a thiirane class of gelatinase selective inhibitors. It appears to target the function of matrix metalloproteinase enzymes such as MMP-9, which looks to be behind some of the damage after a brain gets slammed by a stroke or some other traumatic injury. Details of the study are published in the journal Molecular Neurodegeneration.

Previously, some of the research team including Zezong Gu, an assistant professor of pathology and anatomical sciences at the MU School of Medicine, determined that MMP-9 was a viable target at which to develop new drugs to treat stroke patients. In their current study, they determined by testing mice with induced brain clots that their MMP-9 inhibitor appeared to both protect neurons and shield blood vessels in the brain after trauma.

"Unregulated, the activity of these enzymes contributes to neurological disorders and stroke," Gu said in a statement. "With this compound, we've now confirmed a potential method to rescue the blood vessels from the damaging effects of MMP-9 and protect neurons at the same time."

It could be some time before this is tested in humans and there is no guarantee that scientists can replicate the results. But patients suffering from strokes don't have a lot of options to help prevent or at least minimize brain damage. They may face surgery, of course. And some drugs such as a tissue plasminogen activator can help alleviate stroke-related clots that block blood flow to the brain in ischemic strokes. But they must be given within a few hours of a stroke's onset in order to work.

The scientists said their new compound could potentially be used in hemorrhagic strokes or ischemic strokes, perhaps in conjunction with a tissue plasminogen activator, to help boost its effectiveness.

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