The researchers said their findings, published in the journal Nature, showed that 1938 increased the growth of nerve cells.
They also found that it reduced heart tissue damage after major trauma in animal models and regenerated lost motor function.
For the study, researchers from University College London (UCL) and the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (MRC LMB), worked with experts from AstraZeneca to screen thousands of molecules from its library of chemical compounds.
PI3K is a type of enzyme that helps control cell growth.
The effects of the PI3K pathway were evaluated by experiments on cardiac tissue and nerve cells.
The researchers said they found that administering 1938 within the first 15 minutes of restoring blood flow after a heart attack provided substantial tissue protection.
Normally, dead tissue can build up when blood flow is restored, which can lead to heart problems later in life.
When 1938 was added to nerve cells grown in the lab, the team also found that it significantly increased nerve growth.
The researchers also tested a rat model with a sciatic nerve injury and found that adding 1938 to the injured nerve resulted in increased recovery of the hind leg muscle.
The researchers said this indicated nerve regeneration.
Professor James Phillips, from the UCL School of Pharmacy, who is one of the lead authors of the study, said: “There are currently no approved drugs to regenerate nerves that can be damaged as a result of injury or disease, so there is a huge unmet need.”
“Our results show that there is potential for drugs that activate PI3K to accelerate nerve regeneration, and crucially, localized delivery methods could avoid the problems of off-target effects that have led to the failure of other compounds.”
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