What is it?

Cerebrolysin is an injectable protein that has shown promise in increasing the size and number of dendrites (or arms) of neurons (brain cells). For this reason, research has been conducted to determine its efficacy in stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, dementia, and other brain injuries. It is currently used for these conditions outside the United States. At present, it is undergoing clinical trials to determine its safety and efficacy in the US.

How Does It Work?

This drug is actually a brain peptide. When injected, it has the properties of encouraging the growth of neural cells much in the same way as nerve growth factor. In addition to increasing the amount and density of neuron dendrites, it also has a protective effect to keep the disease from breaking down existing neural tissue. It can influence behavior by increasing signals in the hippocampus region of the brain. For stroke victims, it would help improve communication between nerve cells in the hippocampus.

What Is It Used For?

Alzheimer’s disease is the primary indication for this medication. However, it is currently being studied in relation to many degenerative brain diseases. It has been used after stroke, in cases of dementia, and after traumatic brain injury.

Research and Evidence

The research on cerebrolysin is mildly promising. A small study published in the Journal of Neural Transmission in 2004 showed that the medication was generally safe for stroke patients and tolerated well. It did show a positive effect on stroke patients, but the sample size was admittedly small. Then a large study published in Stroke in 2012 showed that there was no difference between the placebo and active groups. Patients severely disabled tended to have a better survival, but without significant improvement over the placebo group.

More research needs to be conducted on the use of cerebrolysin in stroke, as most were focused on Alzheimer’s.

References

Alzheimer’s Research Forum; Drugs in Clinical Trials: Cerebrolysin

http://www.alzforum.org/drg/drc/detail.asp?id=39

Stroke; Cerebrolysin in patients with acute ischemic stroke in Asia: results of a double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized trial; WD Heiss, et. al.; March 2012

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22282884

Journal of Neural Transmission; Neuroprotective treatment with Cerebrolysin in patients with acute stroke: a randomised controlled trial; G. Ladurner, et. al.; December 2004

http://xa.yimg.com/kq/groups/15186538/597088878/name/P3.pdf