A groundbreaking new study from the University of Cincinnati promises that a new drug may help reverse the damage caused by a stroke.
Researchers from UC and Case Western Reserve University have published a groundbreaking preclinical study in the journal Cell reports July 26.
Currently, there are no FDA-approved drugs to repair the damage caused by a stroke. The study found that the drug, called NVG-291-R, allowed for the regeneration of the nervous system and significantly restored functionality in an animal model of severe ischemic stroke. Genetic deletion of the drug’s molecular target also shows a similar effect on neural stem cells.
“We are very pleased with the data showing significant improvements in motor function, sensory function, spatial learning, and memory,” said Agnes (Yu) Luo, Ph.D., assistant professor of molecular genetics and biochemistry at the University of California College of Medicine. senior author of the study.
Luo said the drug will be a “significant breakthrough” if the first results are translated into the clinical setting. Further research and confirmation of the results from independent groups will be needed to determine how effective the drug is in repairing ischemic stroke damage in patients. Additional studies will be needed to investigate whether NVG-291-R effectively repairs damage caused by hemorrhagic strokes in both animal models and human patients.
“Most treatments being researched today are primarily focused on reducing early stroke damage,” Luo said. “However, our group has focused on neurorepair as an alternative and has now shown that treatment with NVG-291-R leads not only to neuroprotection to reduce neuronal death, but also to strong neuroreparative effects.”
The study also found that the drug was effective even when treatment was started seven days after the onset of the stroke.
“The only currently FDA-approved stroke drug does not repair damage and must be administered within 4.5 hours of stroke onset.” said Luo. “Most of the treatments being investigated need to be administered within 24 to 48 hours of the onset of the stroke. A product that reverses stroke damage even a week after symptoms appear will change the paradigm of stroke treatment.”
Jerry Silver, Ph.D., study co-author and professor of neurology at the CWRU School of Medicine, said the study showed that the drug repairs damage in at least two ways: creating new neuronal connections and enhancing the migration of newborn neurons derived from neural stem cells to the site of damage.
“NVG-291-R’s ability to increase plasticity was demonstrated using staining techniques that clearly showed increased axon sprouting into the damaged part of the brain,” Silver said. “This increased plasticity is an excellent confirmation of the very powerful mechanisms that we and other researchers have been able to demonstrate with NVG-291-R in spinal cord injury.”
NervGen Pharma Corp. has exclusive worldwide rights to NVG-291, and this drug is also currently being tested in Phase 1 clinical trials in healthy humans. In 2022 and 2023, NervGen plans to begin safety and efficacy trials in patients with spinal cord injury, Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis.
The study was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (Grant No. R01NS107365). The authors of the study have authorship in a patent application that was submitted to CWRU based in part on these results. Silver is a consultant to NervGen, a start-up pharmaceutical company that has licensed an issued patent (#9937242) covering the ISP peptide from CWRU.