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January 21, 2011

Neuroscientist Receives Grant to Study a Novel Drug to Protect Brains from Damage Due to Ischemic Stroke

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Most strokes result from a blockade of blood flow to the brain, producing what is known as an ischemic stroke. When a clot lodges in one of the human brain’s arteries, the results can be devastating, if not fatal. The only FDA-approved treatment for this type of stroke is to disrupt the clot, but unfortunately this therapy is hampered by the short time frame in which it can be used.

By blocking the artery, the clot deprives the brain cells of much-needed oxygen and glucose and the nerve cells can be damaged or die, depending on the severity of the blockage and if it can be removed in time.

Researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine led by Kevin Lee, Ph.D., Chairman of the Department of Neuroscience, are testing a new treatment which bypasses the clot, by delivering needed oxygen and glucose to the cells in the brain. By using the compound Trans-sodium crocetinate (TSC) in preclinical studies, Lee has been able to establish “metabolic reflow” in part of the brain suffering from stroke.

“Stroke is the third leading cause of death and the leading cause of disability in the United States. We are hopeful that our ongoing studies will facilitate the development of this new therapy for protecting the brain during stroke,” Lee says.

Lee recently received an $890,000 grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke for characterizing the protective effects TSC in preclinical studies of stroke. Lee says the goals of the study are to determine the window of opportunity for administering TSC treatment, define the proper dosage, and determine whether TSC might extend the period physicians have for reperfusion therapy.

TSC is being developed for clinical use by Diffusion Pharmaceuticals, which is a local Charlottesville company that originated as a spin off of UVA research. Lee says that, “the progress that Diffusion Pharmaceuticals has already made in its early clinical studies characterizing TSC will help considerably when the efficacy of this drug has been established for treating stroke”.

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