J. Neurochem. (2011) 116, 122–131.
Acute ischemic stroke is a major risk for morbidity and mortality in our aging population. Currently only one drug, the thrombolytic tissue plasminogen activator, is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration to treat stroke. Therefore, there is a need to develop new drugs that promote neuronal survival following stroke. We have synthesized a novel neuroprotective molecule called CNB-001 (a pyrazole derivative of curcumin) that has neurotrophic activity, enhances memory, and blocks cell death in multiple toxicity assays related to ischemic stroke. In this study, we tested the efficacy of CNB-001 in a rigorous rabbit ischemic stroke model and determined the molecular basis of its in vivo activity. CNB-001 has substantial beneficial properties in an in vitro ischemia assay and improves the behavioral outcome of rabbit ischemic stroke even when administered 1 h after the insult, a therapeutic window in this model comparable to tissue plasminogen activator. In addition, we elucidated the protein kinase pathways involved in neuroprotection. CNB-001 maintains the calcium-calmodulin-dependent kinase signaling pathways associated with neurotrophic growth factors that are critical for the maintenance of neuronal function. On the basis of its in vivo efficacy and novel mode of action, we conclude that CNB-001 has a great potential for the treatment of ischemic stroke as well as other CNS pathologies.