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Novel Drugs May Help Prevent Cerebral Palsy

Selective neuronal nitric oxide synthase inhibitors seen as safe and effective in an animal model

THURSDAY, Feb. 26 (HealthDay News) -- In high-risk pregnancies, the use of selective neuronal nitric oxide synthase inhibitors could help prevent cerebral palsy, according to research published online Feb. 20 in the Annals of Neurology.

Haitao Ji, Ph.D., of Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., and colleagues used a novel computer-based drug design method called fragment hopping to identify new selective neuronal nitric oxide synthase inhibitors, and tested two of them in pregnant rabbits that were subjected to an animal model of cerebral palsy.

The researchers found that both compounds distributed to the fetal brain, where they inhibited nitric oxide synthase activity and reduced concentrations of nitric oxide without causing any toxic or cardiovascular effects. Although no deaths were observed among kits born to treated animals, survival was less than 50 percent among kits born to untreated animals. The researchers also found that 83 percent of kits treated with the first compound and 69 percent of kits treated with the second compound had no signs of cerebral palsy.

"We still have to bring the phenomenon to humans, which would be very exciting," co-author Sidhartha Tan, M.D., of the North Shore University Health System in Chicago, said in a statement. "There is such a dire need. If we could safely give the drug early to mothers in at-risk situations, we could prevent the fetal brain injury that results in cerebral palsy."

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