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N-Acetyl Cysteine and Phenserine are Promising Drug Treatments for TBI-Related Cognitive Impairment

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) accounts for almost 30% of all injury deaths in the United States each year. Due to the prevalence and high mortality rate of TBI, discovering its underlying mechanisms has been at the forefront of medical research. However, most attempts to treat TBI with medication have been largely unsuccessful and typically fail to treat the neuron death and cognitive impairment that result from brain injuries.

A group of researchers in Ohio addressed this problem by conducting a review of two promising new drugs that may be effective for treating TBI. The first of these is N-acetyl cysteine (NAC), an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drug. The other is Phenserine, an experimental drug developed to combat the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. They found that these drugs may successfully treat the secondary effects of TBI, which may include neuro-inflammation, astrocyte reactivity, and neuron death. Reduction or reversal of these symptoms may significantly improve an individuals’ capacity for recovery from TBI.

Currently, pharmacological treatments for TBI are nonexistent. Drugs like N-acetyl cysteine and Phenserine, though originally developed for other medical uses, are promising new treatments that may promote physical repair in the brain, even after injury-induced neuron loss has already begun. By directly addressing the pathology of TBI-related neuron dysfunction, NAC and Phenserine may target brain damage at its source.

Hoffer BJ, Pick CG, Hoffer ME, et al. Repositioning drugs for traumatic brain injury: N-acetyl cysteine and Phenserine. Journal of Biomedical Science. (August 2017).


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