The University of Miami, along with Tetra Discovery (out of Boston) has uncovered a new drug that could assist with memory issues in patients of traumatic brain injury. PDE4B, a phosphodiesterase-4 inhibitor in the PDE4 family of drugs, is the newest candidate for treating multiple brain injury complications such as depression, schizophrenia, and brain microglia from inflammation. The researchers from University of Miami and Tetra have now begun to test the drug’s abilities on brain injuries caused by external trauma.
In the last few years, brain injury has become a controversial area of medicine in the news and media, especially in the sports world. The 2015 film, “Concussion”, tells the story of Dr. Bennet Omalu. In real life, Dr. Omalu is a prominent neuropathologist who discovered the first evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) while performing an autopsy on former NFL football players, including Mike Webster and Terry Long (both of the Pittsburgh Steelers).
The issue of brain injury, however, is not just pertinent to football players and other athletes. The Center for Disease Control reports that traumatic brain injury is the number one cause of death in people under the age of 45. The estimated overall cost of these disability cases is over $75M per year. The current brain-injury drug market is dominated by donepezil, an Alzheimer’s medication that has not been approved for treating CTE or TBI.
PDE4s have been used prior to this instance, however, to treat brain injuries with rolipram and other experimental medications. Clinical tests were conducted for the PDE4 drug class in medical cases relating to COPD, lung disease, and asthma. Unfortunately, many of these studies were also subject to various side-effects such as headache, diarrhea, and severe sickness.
Dr. Dalton Dietrich of the Miami Project notes, “This selective PDE4B inhibitor from Tetra Discovery Partners has great promise, restoring the learning and memory performance of TBI animals to nearly non-injured levels.” There has been no word yet as to when human trials may begin or when an initial release of the drug may occur, but news of the recent success is giving TBI patients hope for a better future.