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Brain injuries and stroke present modern medicine with a tremendous challenge. Even when the initial damage is not massive, it can trigger a destructive domino-like process that causes brain tissue irreversible harm. This happens because in brain injury, stroke and some neuro-degenerative diseases, damaged brain cells release large amounts of the chemical messenger glutamate. Under normal circumstances, this substance plays a role in transmitting signals between nerve cells in the brain. However, excess glutamate harms nerve cells.
Prof. Vivian Teichberg of the Weizmann Institute’s Neurobiology Department has developed a new method for removing dangerous surplus glutamate created in the brain following trauma or stroke. Brain tissue has special “pumps” that normally suck up glutamate from the brain and transfer it to the blood. Teichberg discovered that lowering the concentration of glutamate in the blood with the help of an enzyme called GOT causes the “pumps” to work more efficiently.
In experiments with rats, the researchers managed to prevent much of the brain damage using this approach. The method will soon be tested in clinical trials.
“I was born in Switzerland the year World War II ended; my parents were Holocaust survivors. I spent my childhood in the constant troubling presence of the Holocaust. In my view, living in Israel is the only way for a Jew to be free. The Weizmann Institute is an ideal environment for anyone wishing to engage in basic research, which one day might surprisingly – as has happened in many cases, including mine – lead to medical applications.”
“I chose to be photographed on the snow-covered slopes of Mount Hermon. It can be seen from the windows of Braintact Ltd. in Kiryat Shmona, where, near the border with Syria and Lebanon, we are developing ways of treating brain injuries for the benefit of all people.”
Prof. Vivian I. Teichberg’s research is supported by the Nella and Leon Benoziyo Center for Neurosciences. Prof. Teichberg is the incumbent of the Louis and Florence Katz-Cohen Chair of Neuropharmacology.