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Stunning finding: Compounds protect against cerebral palsy
Date:2/25/2009

Two compounds developed by Northwestern University chemists have been shown to be effective in pre-clinical trials in protecting against cerebral palsy, a condition caused by neurodegeneration that affects body movement and muscle coordination.

"The results were just stunning, absolutely amazing," said Richard B. Silverman, John Evans Professor of Chemistry in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern, who led the drug development effort. "There was a remarkable difference between animals treated with a small dose of one of our compounds and those that were not."

The findings, which are published online by the journal Annals of Neurology, suggest that a preventive strategy for cerebral palsy may be feasible for humans in the future. (The paper also will appear in the journal's February issue, in print the week of March 2.)

None of the fetuses born to animals treated with the two compounds died; more than half of those born to untreated animals died. Eighty-three percent of animals treated with one of the compounds were born normal, with no cerebral palsy characteristics. Sixty-nine percent of animals treated with the other compound were born normal. There was no sign of toxicity in the treated animals, and their blood pressure was normal.

Cerebral palsy is caused by an injury to the brain before, during or shortly after birth, although it typically is not diagnosed until after the age of one. Approximately 750,000 children and adults in the United States have a form of cerebral palsy, with the majority having been born with the condition.

The new compounds Silverman and his team developed inhibit an enzyme found in brain cells that produces nitric oxide, thus lowering nitric oxide levels. At normal levels, nitric oxide acts as a neurotransmitter and is important to neuronal functioning, but at high levels it has been shown to damage brain tissue. An overabundance of nitric oxide is believed to
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Contact: Megan Fellman
fellman@northwestern.edu
847-491-3115
Northwestern University
Source:Eurekalert

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