Scientists say they have tested a drug that could help return some functionality of movement after someone has had a stroke.
Published in the journal Science, the study was led by Yokohama City University in Japan. While the study focused on mice and monkeys, an early clinical trial has suggested the drug is safe for humans, with a full clinical trial related to this study planned for 2019.
The research looked into something called plasticity. After brain damage from a stroke, the brain can naturally rewire its connections – plasticity – with a protein called CRMP2 thought to play a role.
In this study, mice were trained to reach for food pellets, with the researchers seeing how they performed before and after a stroke. They administered a molecule called edonerpic maleate, known to target CRMP2, in varying levels to see how their performance changed.
In tandem with rehabilitation, the researchers found that administering the drug “significantly boosted the ability of the mice to perform the reaching task,” a statement noted. Monkeys were also given the same task to do, before and after a stroke, with the same results when given edonerpic maleate.
"What's interesting about this approach is that, while there's some spontaneous recovery of function, it's meant to be activated by rehabilitative therapy," Jason Hinman, a University of California, Los Angeles, neurologist who was not involved in the research, told the LA Times. "If you just sit on the couch, you don't get the benefit."
It’s estimated that every year 800,000 Americans suffer a stroke, while 1.7 million people suffer a traumatic brain injury. Finding a treatment for such brain injuries is difficult, however, and often focuses on the first few hours after the injury.
“The beauty and intricacy of the human brain is unfortunately also mirrored by its vulnerability,” Simon Rumpel, from the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, noted in an accompanying Perspective piece. “Damage to the brain is typically permanent.”
This drug, however, can be administered days after the incident, rather than hours, meaning it opens up a bigger window of opportunity. This particular drug has been tested before on humans and is known to be safe, so it could be a viable treatment option in the future.
“The efficacy of edonerpic maleate in humans should be evaluated in clinical trials because safety profiles of this compound have already been well established,” the researchers noted in their paper.