New research could provide new hope to young victims and their families
Israel (Ness-Ziona) and US (Wilmington) (MMD Newswire) January 16, 2014 – - We’ve all been shocked and outraged by a news story of an infant who died of “shaken baby syndrome,” or SBS – traumatic head injury at the hands of a caregiver or parent who snapped and took his or her rage out on the helpless child. And we have all been saddened by the report of a promising young athlete whose life was shattered after receiving a serious concussion while playing a sport he loved. Traumatic brain injury, or TBI, in youngsters isn’t something that most people think about, at least until one of those heartbreaking stories airs on TV, or tragedy strikes even closer to home: Yet TBI is the leading cause of death of children and young adults, according to the Center for Head Injury Services (http://www.headinjuryctr-stl.org/statistics.html). But promising new therapies may give new hope to young TBI victims and their families, says Dr. Adrian Harel, a renowned neurobiologist with many years of experience in the pharmaceutical and biotech industry. Dr. Harel, president and founder of the research company Medicortex USA, is on a mission to develop breakthrough treatments for TBI, specifically with a new class of drugs that address brain trauma in a more comprehensive manner than current therapies.
“This research is important and timely because TBI in children and young adults is a serious and growing problem,” says Dr. Harel. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) web site (www.cdc.gov), approximately 18% of all TBI-related emergency-room visits involve children aged 0 to 4 years; falls cause at least half of these injuries. Abuse is another common cause. Although in recent years some experts have questioned the frequency of shaken baby syndrome, it certainly does occur, and is one of the severest forms of physical child abuse. In fact child abuse accounts for 64% of all infant head injuries, according to the Center for Head Injury Services. But as every parent knows, infants can get into plenty of mischief on their own once they start crawling, and as they become toddlers intent on exploring their world, falls and other accidents are a constant hazard. In the U.S. alone, more than one million children sustain a head injury each year, and 1 in 10 kids hospitalized for these injuries will suffer moderate to severe impairments. Dr. Harel believes that the new drug he is researching will have immense promise for lessening or preventing these impairments.
As children get a little older and become involved in sports and other activities, the potential for TBI increases. Each year, U.S. emergency rooms treat more than 170,000 sports- or recreation-related TBIs – including concussions – among children and adolescents up to 19 years of age, according to the CDC web site. Among these age groups, ER visits for sports- and recreation-related TBIs increased by 60 percent during the past decade. Bicycling, football, playground activities, basketball, and soccer are associated with the greatest number of TBI-related ER visits. In addition, the risk of motor vehicle crashes is higher among 16- to 19-year-olds than among any other age group.
Treating TBI can be problematic because of the enormous potential for secondary degeneration. In too many cases the initial incident is just the beginning of the problem; damage is an ongoing process. Dr. Harel explains that brain trauma can have a ripple effect, with the continual damage being roughly comparable to the ever-expanding circles that occur in water when the surface is disturbed.
Currently available therapies fail to fully address these problems, says Dr. Harel. That’s not from lack of effort on the part of the pharmaceutical companies and research labs. “Several drugs have been developed,” explains Dr. Harel, “but unfortunately all failed in Phase 3 clinical trials. After extensive review of the literature, I came to the conclusion that the main reason for these failures is the dogma that dictates ‘one chemical for one activity’ – and this is not the right way to approach TBI.”
What’s the solution? “We need to develop a new class of drugs that block several different biochemical cascades at the same time,” says Dr. Harel. Accordingly, he and his team at Medicortex are exploring the possibilities of a multi-activity drug, i.e., one compound with several clinical affects. Dr. Harel’s research is currently focused on compounds that lower free radicals, bind free metal ions, reduce infection, and control inflammation. “All of these processes are necessary to properly address the initial trauma, lessen or prevent secondary degeneration, and produce the best outcome,” says Dr. Harel.
He adds that Medicortex is currently seeking investors, venture capitalists, and philanthropic contributions to provide the necessary funds for this crucial research to continue. “I am very optimistic,” he says, “and I will continue my efforts to give the victims and their families hope – a light at the end of the tunnel.”
For parents anxiously sitting by the bedside of their injured junior athlete, or pacing the halls in the ER after their toddler took a tumble down the stairs, that light at the end of the tunnel cannot come soon enough.
Founded in 2010 by Dr. Adrian Harel, Medicortex USA Ltd. is a start-up pharmaceutical company focused on the discovery and pre-clinical development of innovative therapies for the treatment of acute neurodegenerative conditions, including traumatic brain injury, exposure to toxic nerve agents and stroke. Medicortex’s mission is to develop a truly effective neuroprotection therapy that limits the damage in brain injury, based on a novel multifunctional drug approach. By doing so, Medicortex will provide a solution to an unmet need for the treatment of acute neurodegenerative diseases. Currently, Medicortex operates in the United States and Israel.
For more information about the work that Medicortex and Dr. Adrian Harel are doing to develop a multi-functional drug for brain injury/TBI, visit http://www.medicortex.com
Dr. Adrian Harel
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