Montana Neuroscience Institute
The UM researchers working with the Montana Neuroscience Institute are not the type of people one would expect to be pushing methamphetamine. But these respectable-looking scientists are saying that a clinical use for this devastating street drug may have been overlooked.
“What people don’t understand is that this is an FDA-approved drug; it’s not just made by criminals in secret labs,” says Dave Poulsen, an associate professor of pharmacy at UM and director of translational research at MNI. Poulsen’s lab studies the positive effects low doses of methamphetamine have on rat brains after a stroke. While still at least a year away from clinical trials in humans, in animal models meth seems to decrease the inflammation, neural overstimulation and cell death that damage the brain after a stroke.
“We’ve figured out a way to stop this cascade of events,” Poulsen says.
Neuroscientists working in the field of neuroprotection have long been looking for a way to do that. So far, dozens of treatments have been tested, and none has been successful. But methamphetamine holds a good deal of promise in Poulsen’s studies to date.
Neuroprotection is just one area of research for MNI, another UM-St. Patrick Hospital collaboration, founded in 1998. Others include gene-based treatments for deafness and epilepsy, developing an imaging agent to diagnose Lou Gehrig’s disease and studying how lead can affect a child’s learning ability.
“We’re trying to take discoveries from the bench to the hospital, and from the hospital to the community,” says Richard Bridges, chair of UM’s Department of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences. “The institute is a very important middleman in that process.”