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AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Pharmacy officials of the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) Jerry H. Hodge School of Pharmacy recently received a patent for a molecule that searches and targets the brain’s dopamine transporter for diseases in the brain.

Neuroinflammation, which is swelling of the brain, can limit blood flow and make it harder for a person’s body to fight against natural diseases. Many diseases and disorders lead to swelling of the brain tissue potentially causing Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and severe brain edema which is the leading cause of death for traumatic brain injury patients, according to TTUHSC.

“Because neuroinflammation has been linked to dopaminergic signaling,” said Nadia German, director of the Medicinal Chemistry program at the TTUHSC, “there is increasing interest in determining whether the modulation of dopamine levels at the inflammation site can stop or even reverse neurodegeneration.”

To help make that determination, German and collaborator Constantinos Mikelis, associate professor in the TTUHSC Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, have received a U.S. patent for a chemical that targets the brain’s dopamine transporter. Affecting the dopamine transporter is one of the ways by which dopamine levels in the brain can be controlled.

German said there are other central nervous system disorders, such as brain tumors and multiple sclerosis, that also exhibit dopamine-related neuroinflammation. That could potentially benefit from the newly patented chemical probe.

Though the testing and evaluation that led to the patent, it demonstrated that the specific activity of the molecule has potential to benefit. It still must pass through several stages of development and approvals before it can become a market-ready drug, according to the TTUHSC.

“It will take some time, I’m sure, but in the end, I’m also sure we will be able to get a molecule with a good drug-likeness profile,” German said. “The gold standard, of course, is oral dosing, but if not, there are many systems we can use for the delivery of the drug.”

German and Mikelis partnered early on with the university’s Office of Research Commercialization, disclosing their invention in June 2017. With the issuance of the patent, the Office of Research Commercialization is actively seeking strategic partners in the pharmaceutical industry interested in the further development and ultimate commercialization of these novel compounds for treating neurological disorders.



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