Preclinical data published in the February issue of Neurologyshowed that the neuroprotective compound Cerestat hastherapeutic potential for reducing the amount of brain damagesuffered following a stroke.

Cerestat, an NMDA-ion channel blocker, is being developed byCambridge NeuroScience Inc. (NASDAQ:CNSI) for treating strokeand traumatic brain injury.

In the animal studies, the researchers, from the Medical Centerof Massachusetts, the University of Massachusetts MedicalSchool, Worcester Polytechnic Institute and CNSI, induced anexperimental stroke in two groups of rats and monitoredchanges in brain function. One group received a regimen ofCerestat, while the other received a placebo.

Cerestat administered after the initiation of a stroke had asignificant neuroprotective effect in these studies, reducingsubsequent tissue damage by as much as 66 percent in thedrug-treated group as compared to the controls.

The data were gathered using a new imaging technique thatallows for immediate and continuous viewing of changes inbrain function during a stroke's progress.

"Using a diffusion-weighted MRI technique, as early as 30minutes after the onset of stroke, we were able to identifyareas of the brain destined to progress to infarction, or sustainserious damage, in untreated cases," said Marc Fisher, whoestablished the technique and is chief of neurology at theMedical Center of Central Massachusetts in Worcester.

The advantage of diffusion-weighted MRI is that it's able toidentify tissue that is at risk for permanent damage but is stillsalvageable, explained Elkan Gamzu, president and chiefoperating officer of CNSI of Cambridge, Mass.

The company is now readying its Phase I-b clinical trials onCerestat in the U.S., which are scheduled to begin next month.About 40 patients who have suffered acute strokes in the past12 hours will be enrolled in this phase, which is designed totest dose escalation and determine the maximum tolerable doseof Cerestat, said Steven Warach of Beth Israel Hospital andHarvard Medical School, who is participating in the trial.

"Using techniques such as diffusion-weighted MRI, we canpotentially identify rescuable brain cells in time to use anNMDA antagonist to try to limit long-term disability," he said."Time is the critical factor in stroke."

-- Jennifer Van Brunt Senior Editor

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.

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