Promising Stroke Gene Discovery

September 22, 2010

The discovery of an enzyme that causes nerve cell death following a stroke has lead to promising results with the use of an experimental drug in mice.

The discovery of an enzyme that causes nerve cell death following a stroke has lead to promising results with the use of an experimental drug in mice, according to results to be published in PLoS Biology.

After researchers, lead by Harald Schmidt, Maastricht University, Netherlands, and Christoph Kleinschnitz, University of Würzburg, Germany, discovered that the hydrogen peroxide-producing enzyme NOX4 is responsible for nerve cell death after a stroke, they learned that inhibition of the enzyme in mice with stroke can dramatically reduce brain damage and preserve brain function, even when the experimental new drug was given hours after the stroke.

And with no abnormalities seen in those mice in which the enzyme was eliminate, the researchers feel a future NOX4 inhibitor agent would likely have no obvious side effects.

Commenting on the study results, Christoph Kleinschnitz, stroke researcher and Germany’s Young Scientist of the Year 2008, said, “Ischemic stroke is the second leading cause of death worldwide. Today, only one approved therapy exists. The effectiveness of this therapy is rather moderate, and, importantly, it can only be used in about 10% of patients; the other 90% are excluded due to contraindications. Thus, there is a huge medical need for better stroke therapies. One such candidate mechanism is oxidative stress. However, approaches to apply antioxidants have failed in clinical stroke trials. This study proposes an entirely new strategy by inhibiting the relevant source of hydrogen peroxide and preventing its formation.”

Further, although NOX4 is perhaps the most promising new therapeutic approach to stroke, Schmidt feels the team’s findings “May have implications for other disease states in which hydrogen peroxide or related oxygen radicals are suspected to play a major role but where antioxidant or vitamin therapies have failed. Inhibiting now the source of hydrogen peroxide or oxygen radicals may represent the long-sought solution to treating also heart attacks, heart failure, cancer, and other forms of nerve cell degeneration such as in Parkinson's or Alzheimer's disease.”

More on Stroke Around the Web:

  • Inhibition of TRPC6 Degradation Suppresses Ischemic Brain Damage in Rats
  • Minocycline to Improve Neurologic Outcome in Stroke (MINOS). A Dose-Finding Study
  • Brain Stimulation can Help Partially Paralysed Stroke Patients Regain Use of Their Muscles, Research Finds
  • The Effect of Human Umbilical Cord Blood Cells on Survival and Cytokine Production by Post-Ischemic Astrocytes in Vitro