Re-establishing nerve pathways after damage is one of medicine’s toughest problems. A related one is dealing with dead heart tissue that clings to the heart after a heart attack and can cause other cardiac problems even years later.
To tackle the dual challenges, chemists at University College London, the University of Cambridge, and drug company AstraZeneca screened thousands of molecules from the pharma giant’s chemical library in search of one that might stimulate an enzyme called P13K.
The enzyme controls cell growth and is key in healing wounds.
After winnowing the initial data dump, the group found a molecule it called “1938” to try.
In an independent preclinical test, physicians found that administering 1938 within 15 minutes after blood flow resumes after a heart attack prevented a significant amount of heart tissue from dying.
In a lab dish, nerve cells grew faster and reproduced more when 1938 was added.
In a test on rats with sciatic nerve damage, injecting 1938 directly into the affected nerve regenerated much of the nerve and led to greater recovery than in rats left untreated.
The scientists now are testing 1938 as a therapy for peripheral nerve damage, such as the kind involved in serious hand and arm injuries, as well as for damage to the central nervous system, such as from strokes, spinal cord injury, or Parkinson’s Disease and other degenerative conditions.
TRENDPOST: The combination of machine learning and artificial intelligence is steadily working its way through the world’s chemical libraries, testing for molecules that can treat illnesses, make new materials, and reveal other innovations waiting to be discovered.
The speed of creation and discovery in chemistry and materials science will dazzle both researchers and consumers in the immediate future and beyond.