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Local scientists make drug discovery in quest to protect patients at risk of stroke

New drug could herald breakthrough in protecting brain from post-stroke damage

Professor Mario Valentino, Dr Jasmine Vella, Professor Robert Fern from the Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry, UK and Dr Christian Zammit.

Professor Mario Valentino, Dr Jasmine Vella, Professor Robert Fern from the Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry, UK and Dr Christian Zammit.

A newly-discovered drug that protects rodent brains from being damaged after a stroke could pave the way for medical trials into treatments for patients at high risk of such brain conditions.  

The drug, named QNZ-46, was discovered by a team of scientists from the University of Malta and University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry. 

It acts by ensuring protective sheaths of nerve fibres are shielded from glutamate's toxic effects. 

Glutamate is an abundant chemical messenger in the brain and plays a role in several vital functions, such as learning and memory. But if it breaks free of the dam-like structures in which it is contained, as can happen during a stroke, it can cause massive damage, killing neurons and leading to effects such as slurred speech and shaky movement. 

Researchers identified the source of the glutamate, showed that it acted on specific receptors on the protective sheath of nerve fibres, and discovered that QNZ-46 protects the brain against this damage. Previous attempts to find a drug that prevents brain damage after stroke had proven unsuccessful.

Professor Mario Valentino said that the results from this collaborative research could become a precursor to pharmaceutical trials.

The study was funded by the University of Plymouth and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the Alfred Mizzi Foundation through the RIDT. Findings have been published in the medical journal Nature Communications.

 

 

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