New stroke drug minimises brain damage

An Australian drug that has the potential to treat stroke survivors is under development in the UK by a UK-based biotechnology company DevCo.

The drug, known as AM-36, can minimise brain damage and physical impairments caused by strokes – Australia’s leading cause of disability. Dr Jenny Callaway and her colleagues at Monash University discovered  the new drug in collaboration with Melbourne-based biotechnology company AMRAD who have licenced the drug to DevCo.

“It won’t stop strokes from happening,” says Dr Callaway. “But we are confident that it will stop much of the damage that occurs in the brain after a stroke – particularly if the drug is given within hours of the stroke occurring.”

Trials in rats reduced stroke brain damage by over 65%, so the team believes it could be very effective in humans.

“At present, there is no clinically available drug that can reduce the amount of damage in stroke survivors – whether they are old or young,” says Dr Callaway. “AM-36 potentially will fill that gap and reduce the heavy and expensive burden of care placed on families and health care services.”

Some 37 000 Australians and their families are affected by stroke each year. Stroke most often occurs when a blood vessel in the brain becomes blocked.

The blockage cuts off the vital supply of oxygen and nutrients to the brain, causing brain cells to die which results in brain damage, and/or physical and mental problems.

“After a stroke, it is common for free radicals, products of normal cellular processes, to build up and cause brain damage,” explains Dr Callaway. “But if AM-36 can be administered ideally within 6 hours of a stroke, we’re optimistic that it could prevent much of that build-up, and rescue brain cells from the ensuing damage.”

A unique feature of AM-36 is it prevents brain cells from dying through multiple actions.

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