Cortex Pharmaceuticals Inc. announced Tuesday that Cortex'scalpain inhibitors protect rat brains from oxygen loss.

These animal studies suggest that the inhibitors may be used totreat strokes, heart attacks and related disorders in which cellsare damaged by a limited blood supply.

Cortex has developed three classes of calpain inhibitors withthe Georgia Institute of Technology. Scott Hagen, Cortex's vicepresident of finance and administration, said the drugs werelow molecular weight synthetic compounds.

In the animal studies, the blood supply to the brains of ratswas cut off for 10 minutes to simulate blood loss during a heartattack. Calpain inhibitors were then injected into the brains ofthe rats. The inhibitors protected brain cells from destructiondue to calpain buildup, which otherwise would occur at lowoxygen concentrations. Although small amounts of calpain areimportant in memory gain, excess calpain destroys the nervecell's cytoskeleton, said Hagen.

Cortex wants to deliver the inhibitors intravenously, saidHagen. He added that the inhibitors had been selected for theirability both to inhibit calpain and to cross the membrane intocells where calpain is located. The ability of the compounds tocross a nerve cell membrane may enable them to cross theblood-brain barrier, said Hagen.

Cortex presented the results Monday at the Recent Advances inthe Prevention and Treatment of Ischemic Stroke Conference atthe SmithKline Beecham Research and Development Center inPhiladelphia. Hagen said the company has not decided when topublish the data.

Cortex (NASDAQ:CORX), which is based in Irvine, Calif., islooking for a corporate partner to develop its calpain inhibitors,said Hagen.

-- Carol Talkington Verser, Ph.D. Special to BioWorld

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

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