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Natural Chemical May Treat Strokes

Natural Chemical May Treat Strokes
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Benowitz has spent years researching how nerve cells form their connections. His work with fish, which are able to spontaneously regenerate brain pathways, led to the discovery that inosine stimulates the formation of nerve cell connections.

"This compensatory nerve growth occurs normally after a stroke, but it is to a much lesser degree than we have seen with inosine," Benowitz tells WebMD, adding that nerve growth with the drug was approximately four times greater than normal.

The first human trials of inosine will involve about 20 patients with severe strokes, says Marc Lanser, MD. Lanser is founder and chief scientific officer for Boston Life Sciences Inc., which holds the licensing agreement for the treatment. Patients will be given infusions under local anesthesia within 24 hours of their strokes. If all goes well, Lanser says, the new treatment could be commercially available within three years.

Brass says that time frame may be optimistic. He warns that many stroke treatments that showed great promise in animal studies have proven disappointing in human studies, but he says there is reason for optimism with this approach.

"The greatest advantage is that we will have much more time to treat patients," he tells WebMD. "We don't have to be there 10 minutes or an hour after the onset of a stroke as would be the ideal with the neuroprotective drugs. The other advantage is that this works by an entirely different mechanism, so when we develop effective neuroprotective drugs, this could be complementary."

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