Magazine article Drug Topics

Coming to the Rescue of Brain Cells after a Stroke

Magazine article Drug Topics

Coming to the Rescue of Brain Cells after a Stroke

Article excerpt

After simulated strokes in lab cultures, brain tissue was rescued" from permanent injury by a drug that blocks communication between nerve cells.

The finding was reported at the Second World Congress of Stroke, Washington, D.C., by James J. Vornov, M.D. Nerve cells, he said, might be "rescued" up to hours after a stroke interrupts blood flow to the brain.

The condition, known as ischemia, was simulated pharmacologically with brief exposure to potassium cyanide and 2-deoxyglucose.

"This runs counter to the conventional wisdom," said Vornov, an assistant professor of neurology at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore. Until recently, most people believed that the injury caused by ischemia occurred during the first few minutes of a stroke and permanently damaged brain tissue.

"It turns out the neurons aren't irreversibly injured at the time of the attack. There's actually a therapeutic window during which the damage can be avoided.

"It's potentially very significant clinically," he continued. "This whole line of research, really for the first time, allows the possibility of treatment for stroke after the patient has symptoms. We have for the first time reproduced these events in a simple, accessible lab system."

Previous experiments used more difficult animal models of strokes. Vornov's experiments looked only at a 30-minute window. But the effects were so strong, he believes it is probably long enough for a stroke patient to get to the hospital and be treated to minimize the memory loss, muscle weakness, and speech problems that can follow ischemia.

Tissue from the hippocampus, a part of the brain that controls memory, was studied. It's very susceptible to stroke-related damage. Injuries to this area also can occur when a heart attack stops the blood flow to the brain or when a person suffers serious head injury, Vornov said.

Loss of blood flow during stroke deprives the brain's nerve cells of oxygen and glucose--the cells' most important energy source. …

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