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New Molecule May Help Prevent Tissue Injury Due to Strokes or Heart Attacks

WebMD Health News

Oct. 7, 1999 (Baltimore) -- A new molecule synthesized by researchers at MetaPhore Pharmaceuticals in St. Louis may one day help prevent tissue damage in the body, including that caused by heart attacks and strokes. The molecule, named M40403 by the researchers, could eventually lead to the development of a synthetic antioxidant.

"We view this as a scientific breakthrough. What we've done is we've made a huge molecule that is normally present in your body ... into a small molecular weight enzyme that has all the functions of your normal endogenous enzyme," the lead author of the study, Daniela Salvemini, PhD, tells WebMD.

The enzyme normally found in the body is called superoxide dismutase, or "SOD." There are several known types, according to the researchers, and their role is to reduce the amount of a type of oxygen molecule found in the body that is called a free radical. Free radicals are produced constantly as a result of basic bodily processes, but they can cause damage to cells and tissues. SOD breaks down the free radicals into less harmful products.

In experiments done with rats, M40403 was able to prevent many of the processes that occur as a result of tissue injury mediated by free radicals. "We clearly show that this molecule has anti-inflammatory properties," Salvemini says.

M40403 was also able to prevent injury that occurs during a heart attack or stroke in rats. "The same process takes place in patients with [heart disease] or stroke due to a blood clot. Tissue injury occurs as a result of two processes," says Matthew Grisham, PhD, professor of biochemistry at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in Shreveport, who commented on the paper for WebMD.

"The clot causes blood flow to the tissues to be interrupted, and when the blood comes back in, it causes a lot of free radical formation and additional injury. We already use something called tPA to help dissolve the clot. This molecule could help reduce or prevent that second cause of injury by mopping up the free radicals," says Grisham.

Grisham also envisions a day when people may take molecules like M40403 regularly to prevent tissue injury. "Many of us are already taking vitamin E or vitamin C as antioxidant therapy. It may be that some of the man-made antioxidants will work even better," he says.

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