Scientists Awarded $2 Million to Treat Cognitive Dysfunction After Brain Injury

W. Dalton Dietrich, Ph.D., Scientific Director of The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis and Kinetic Concepts Distinguished Chair in Neurosurgery, and Coleen Atkins, Ph.D., assistant professor of neurological surgery, have been awarded a $2 million, five-year grant by the National Institutes of Health to further develop a promising compound that could potentially help millions suffering from brain injury regain cognitive function.

The grant is a collaboration with the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, West Virginia University and Tetra Discovery Partners, a pharmaceutical company based in Michigan.

With the grant, the researchers will develop a phosphodiesterase (PDE) enzyme inhibitor drug patented by Dietrich, Atkins, and Mark Gurney from Tetra Discovery Partners. Called compound A33, the drug is being tested for the treatment of chronic cognitive deficits resulting from traumatic brain injury.

With more than three million traumatic brain injury survivors reporting disabilities in the months to years after the initial brain trauma, Atkins says the project aims to identify the molecules and circuits that are altered in the injured brain that give rise to learning and memory deficits.

“This is an exciting collaboration, because we can put it all together in the laboratory to develop the pre-clinical data, and then the pharmaceutical company can help us take it through clinical trials — a win-win situation,” Atkins said.

The researchers believe that compound A33 has a high potential to be translated into humans through clinical trials. If proven effective, the drug would signify a breakthrough in targeting the specific molecules that are disrupted during memory formation in the chronically injured brain.

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