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New Method May Treat Brain Injuries

sporters, are found on the outsides of blood vessels, on cells that come into contact with the brain. These collect glutamate, creating small zones of high concentration from which the glutamate can then be released into the bloodstream.

Basic chemistry told him that he could affect the transporter activity by tweaking glutamate levels in the blood. When blood levels are low, the greater difference in concentrations causes the brain to release more glutamate into the bloodstream. He uses an enzyme called GOT that is normally present in blood to bind glutamate chemically and inactivate it, effectively lowering levels in the blood and kicking transporter activity into high gear. In their experiments, Teichberg and his colleagues used this method to scavenge blood glutamate in rats with simulated traumatic brain injury. They found that glutamate cleared out of the animals’ brains effectively, and damage was prevented.

Yeda, the technology transfer arm of the Weizmann Institute, now holds a patent for this method, and a new company based on this patent, called “Braintact Ltd.,” has been set up in Kiryat Shmona in northern Israel and is currently operating within the framework of Meytav Technological Incubator. The US FDA has assured the company of a fast track to approval. If all goes well, Phase I clinical trials are planned for the near future.

The method could potentially be used to treat such acute brain insults as head traumas and stroke, and prevent brain and nerve damage from bacterial meningitis or nerve gas. It may also have an impact on chronic diseases such as glaucoma, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or HIV dementia. Teichberg: “Our method may work where others have failed, because rather than temporarily blocking the glutamate’s toxic action with drugs inside the brain, it clears the chemical away from the brain into the blood, where it can’t do harm anymore.”

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