A Hadassah Medical Organization research team, in collaboration with a team from the University of Pennsylvania, USA, has developed a peptide that could save the lives of people stricken with ischemic strokes. The findings, published recently in the prestigious medical journal, Nature Neuroscience, reveal a way to bypass the serious side effects of a medication used to dissolves clots, opening the door to a safe way to treat victims of stroke.

For over 50 years, doctors and scientists have known that the body’s tPA (tissue-type plasminogen activator) has the natural ability to dissolve blood clots; however, in 97 percent of stroke victims, it also causes acute cranial hemorrhaging. Pharmaceutical companies have replicated tPA to augment the body’s natural supply, but they have been unable to eliminate its dangerous side effects or give it a longer therapeutic window. As a result, only about three percent of stroke victims can receive tPA, the only Food and Drug Administration-approved treatment for acute ischemic stroke.

Prof. Abd Al-Roof Higazi and colleagues from the Hadassah University Medical Center’s Department of Clinical Biochemistry, along with a team led by Prof. Douglas B. Cines of the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, developed the peptide. The article that appeared on August 27 in Nature Neuroscience describes how the teams used a peptide that can bind to tPA to modify its structure and thereby significantly decrease its side effects. This “new” tPA preserves tissue viability after traumatic brain injury and stroke without inhibiting tPA’s clotting activity and provides a longer therapeutic window.

The researchers have successfully tested their findings on animal models. After completing toxicology tests, they will request permission to conduct clinical trials, which they anticipate will begin within one to two years. An editorial commenting on the Hadassah-University of Pennsylvania teams’ findings, which appeared in another prestigious medical journal, Nature Medicine, concluded: “If these results are extended to humans, they could usher in a new era of thrombolytic therapy for stroke, which is the leading cause of disability in the world.”

Prof. Higazi is the Chief Scientific Officer of Thrombotec Ltd., a start-up company of Hadasit, the technology transfer company of the Hadassah Medical Organization, which owns the patents for both the stroke and heart attack treatment involving the peptide-treated tPA. Thrombotec Ltd is included in the portfolio of Hadasit Bio-Holdings Ltd. (HDST) that was floated on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange last December.

Thrombotec is involved in advanced negotiations with a strategic partner that has designated its potential investment to enhance the development of the peptide in preparation for clinical trials. Thrombotec has already signed an agreement with a Belgium company to manufacture the peptide.