(−)-Phenserine tartrate (PhenT) as a treatment for traumatic brain injury

Nigel H. Greig, Daniela Lecca, Shih Chang Hsueh, Carlos Nogueras-Ortiz, Dimitrios Kapogiannis, David Tweedie, Elliot J. Glotfelty, Robert E. Becker, Yung Hsiao Chiang, Barry J. Hoffer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Aim: Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is one of the most common causes of morbidity and mortality of both young adults and the elderly, and is a key contributing factor in about 30% of all injury-associated deaths occurring within the United States of America. Albeit substantial impact has been made to improve our comprehension of the mechanisms that underpin the primary and secondary injury stages initiated by a TBI incident, this knowledge has yet to successfully translate into the development of an effective TBI pharmacological treatment. Developing consent suggests that a TBI can concomitantly trigger multiple TBI-linked cascades that then progress in parallel and, if correct, the multifactorial nature of TBI would make the discovery of a single effective mechanism-targeted drug unlikely. Discussion: We review recent data indicating that the small molecular weight drug (−)-phenserine tartrate (PhenT), originally developed for Alzheimer's disease (AD), effectively inhibits a broad range of mechanisms pertinent to mild (m) and moderate (mod)TBI, which in combination underpin the ensuing cognitive and motor impairments. In cellular and animal models at clinically translatable doses, PhenT mitigated mTBI- and modTBI-induced programmed neuronal cell death (PNCD), oxidative stress, glutamate excitotoxicity, neuroinflammation, and effectively reversed injury-induced gene pathways leading to chronic neurodegeneration. In addition to proving efficacious in well-characterized animal TBI models, significantly mitigating cognitive and motor impairments, the drug also has demonstrated neuroprotective actions against ischemic stroke and the organophosphorus nerve agent and chemical weapon, soman. Conclusion: In the light of its tolerability in AD clinical trials, PhenT is an agent that can be fast-tracked for evaluation in not only civilian TBI, but also as a potentially protective agent in battlefield conditions where TBI and chemical weapon exposure are increasingly jointly occurring.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)636-649
Number of pages14
JournalCNS Neuroscience and Therapeutics
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1 2020


  • neurodegeneration
  • neuroinflammation
  • phenserine
  • preprogrammed neuronal cell death
  • traumatic brain injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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