Brain Health

A New Way to Treat Brain Damage

Medicine should treat neurological  disorders by focusing on the ability of the brain and nervous system to heal themselves, rather than just prescribing clot-busting drugs and similar remedies, according to two top experts.

Michael Chopp, Ph,D., internationally renowned stroke researcher and scientific director of the Neuroscience Institute at Henry Ford Hospital, and Zhenggang Zhang,M.D., Ph.D., senior scientist at Henry Ford’s Department of Neurology, make their case for the change in treatment strategy in an editorial published online in Expert Opinion on Biological Therapy.

According to a news release from the Henry Ford Health System, the experts said that enhancing the brain’s own restorative abilities via medicine could benefit not only stroke patients, but those suffering other neurological damage or disease including traumatic brain injury (TBI), multiple sclerosis (MS) and peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage that afflicts the elderly, chemotherapy patients and especially diabetics).

The authors advocated a drug treatment they themselves have developed. It is a synthetic version of a naturally occurring peptide called Thymosin beta-4.

“Pioneering animal studies at Henry Ford have shown Thymosin beta-4 is highly effective for the treatment of neurological diseases in part by increasing the formation of protective myelin around nerve fibers in the central and peripheral nervous systems,” Chopp said.

In their editorial, the authors cited the limited effectiveness of current standard drug therapy, using tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), more commonly known as a “clot buster,” to treat neurological disease. Specifically, they cited research showing that only 5 percent of stroke patients get tPA, and just 30 percent of those show significant improvement.

There are similar results for nerve damage after traumatic brain injuries, multiple sclerosis and peripheral neuropathy.

One of tPA’s most serious limitations is that it must be administered within a very short time after stroke. But “restorative therapies” such as Thymosin beta-4 “may be applied well after the onset of injury or the onset of clinical symptoms for degenerative diseases.”

“Rather than focusing on destroying clots or other lesions leading to nerve damage,” Chopp said, “restorative therapies are designed to ‘remodel’ or rebuild the nervous system by stimulating self-healing processes that already exist in the brain, spinal cord and the peripheral nerves connected to them.”

“It is therefore time to reconsider how we think about treating neural injury and disease,” the authors said.

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