Public Release: 

New Compound May Aid Hunt For Stroke Drugs

Johns Hopkins Medicine

JHU Medical Institutions

New Compound May Aid Hunt For Stroke Drugs

Johns Hopkins scientists have discovered a tiny protein that, if used as a prototype, could speed the search for drugs to stop the serious brain damage that often follows a stroke.

The peptide closes a chemical door on the surfaces of certain nerve cells. When open, the door, called an NMDA glutamate receptor, admits calcium and other chemicals that facilitate normal communication between nerve cells. Hyperactivity in this receptor--staying open too wide for too long-- has long been linked to a variety of neuromuscular disorders like Lou Gehrig's disease, Huntington's disease, and Parkinson's disease, and to stroke damage.

Researchers led by Min Li, Ph.D., assistant professor of physiology, found the new peptide by screening billions of peptides for their ability to bind to a target molecule, the NMDA glutamate receptor.

With funding from the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Li began developing this "library" of peptides while at Affymax Research Institute, a private biotechnology company in Palo Alto, Calif.

"Our team found seven peptides that chemically attach to this receptor, and one of them, known as Mag-1.5, shuts it down," he says.

Studying Mag-1.5's characteristics could give researchers traits to look for in potential stroke treatment drugs, Li notes. Watching the peptide bind to the receptor and close it down also could help scientists understand the receptor and how they can shut it.

Li's results appear in the August issue of Nature Biotechnology.

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