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Neurol Res. 1995 Aug;17(4):249-58.

Calpain as a novel target for treating acute neurodegenerative disorders.

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Alkermes, Inc., Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.


Calpains are cytosolic, neutral proteases that normally exist in an inactive or quiescent state. They require higher than normal levels of calcium for activation which, once accomplished, lead to irreversible proteolysis of numerous cytoskeletal, membrane-associated and regulatory proteins. Because of these characteristics, calpain is gaining attention as a potentially important pathogenic variable in ischemic neuronal death. This manuscript explores this hypothesis by briefly reviewing current support for the role played by calpain in ischemic neurodegeneration, and then discussing a series of recently published studies which: 1. offer further evidence for the hypothesis, and 2. provide direct support for the idea that selective inhibition of calpain can greatly limit the neuronal damage that would normally occur following both global as well as focal brain ischemia. Thus, the data reviewed in this manuscript support the ideas that unregulated activation and proteolysis of intraneuronal calpain plays a significant role in the brain damage that occurs following an ischemic event and that delivering selective and membrane permeant calpain inhibitors to ischemic tissue may provide a powerfully effective therapeutic means of limiting neuronal damage.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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