HOUSTON – An HIV drug may become the first-ever pharmaceutical treatment from a human gene discovery to help patients recover from a stroke. Researchers at UCLA discovered that people missing a certain gene recover from stroke well.
Reams Freedman had a severe stroke 21 years ago.
“It was like I was run over by a truck. So, I went from a fully-functioning man to someone who essentially couldn’t do anything,” said Freedman.
Using physical and occupational therapies that were available, he got back most of his function and now runs a stroke recovery group. Now, his friend, S. Tom Carmichael, MD, Ph.D., Prof/Chair of Neurology at the Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA, believes a missing gene may speed up stroke recovery, and that may lead to a medication that helps.
“It’s tempered hope, but it’s a pathway, and we haven’t had a lot of those,” said Dr. Carmichael.
In a study in Tel Aviv, stroke survivors without a functioning CCR5 gene showed significantly better improvements in motor skills, language, sensory function, memory, and attention. The drug maraviroc blocks CCR5 and slows HIV progression. Dr. Carmichael hopes the same mechanism will accelerate stroke recovery.
“Our hope is that it does enhance recovery, even a little bit, and lets many stroke patients know there’s a possibility if you can get enhanced recovery a little bit and increase brain plasticity, you may be able to do more with a very aggressive rehabilitation program,” said Dr. Carmichael.
Dr. Carmichael says maraviroc worked in mouse trials. Human trials are beginning now.
The maraviroc trial will be run at UCLA, Yale, and Burke Rehabilitation Institute in New York. Since the drug is already FDA approved for safety in HIV patients, the trial is already in phase two. If you are interested in signing up for the trial, contact Dr. Carmichael at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contributors to this news report include Wendy Chioji, Field Producer; Rusty Reed, Videographer; Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that the drug is used to treat HIV, not AIDS.