Stimulating Neural Survival

Stimulating Neural Survival: A Promising New Treatment for Neurological Diseases, Including Depression

Neurological diseases, including dementia, depression, Parkinson’s, and epilepsy, all respond well to a common therapeutic process: the protection and growth of mature neurons, also known as neurogenesis. A protein called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) is essential for neuronal survival and growth in the nervous system, and has proven to be important for long-term memory. Decreased levels of BDNF are associated with a number of neurological disorders.

Keqiang Ye, PhD
Keqiang Ye, PhD

Clinical studies have shown that BDNF itself can’t be used therapeutically, so Keqiang Ye, PhD, professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at Emory, and his team set out to search for small molecules in the lab that could mimic its effects. They found 7,8-Dihydroxyflavone, a potent compound that, when given to mice, inhibited neuronal cell death triggered by various stresses. It also showed prominent anti-depression characteristics.

“BDNF is an essential neurological hormone, and it influences every neurological aspect from depression and anxiety to degenerative diseases. This compound mimics BDNF very effectively, it can diminish the death of neurons and promote neuronal survival,” Ye says. “It showed a great therapeutic effect on Parkinson’s disease mouse models and depression within a few days of treatment.”

Ye is working with Emory’s Office of Technology Transfer (OTT) to explore the usefulness of 7,8- Dihydroxyflavone as a neuroprotective agent and anti-depressant, and perhaps as a treatment for other neurological diseases as well. “Dr. Ye is one of our most prolific inventors,” says Raj Guddneppanavar, an OTT licensing associate. “The 7,8 Dihydroxyflavone compound has demonstrated remarkable efficacy in a myriad of neurological conditions, and we are actively seeking commercial partners to move a product to the market.”


Ye is eager to explore the compound’s effectiveness on a long list of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, ALS, Rett syndrome, epilepsy, Parkinson’s, spinal cord injuries, strokes, ischemia, brain injuries, diabetic neuropathy, peripheral neuropathy, dementia, peripheral nerve injury, pain, deafness, depression, and anxiety.

The compound itself comes from the diet, Ye says, so it is naturally occurring and has proven to be very safe. He has increased its effectiveness and strength more than twenty-fold in the lab by developing the derivatives.

The therapeutic effects of 7,8-Dihydroxyflavone on ALS and Rett Syndrome and many other neurological diseases have been extensively validated and reported. While this work on 7,8- Dihydroxyflavone itself continues, additional developments have included the creation of chemically distinct derivatives for 7,8- Dihydroxyflavone as well as a set of 7,8– Dihydroxyflavone prodrugs. These additional lines of intellectual property serve to strengthen the potential commercial opportunity around 7,8- Dihydroxyflavone.

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Techid: 08014