A substance that opens up the possibility of treatment up to two days after a stroke has been discovered by scientists at Lund University.
The opportunities to treat a stroke have long been limited to the hours after an attack. The loss of brain function caused by the stroke has previously been regarded as permanent.
The only acute treatment for a stroke currently available is thrombolysis. This uses drugs that dissolve the blood clot responsible for the stroke, but it only reaches around 10 per cent of stroke patients in time to prevent lasting damage.
For other patients, there are no other effective drugs that reduce the loss of brain function following a stroke.
Now, researchers at the Laboratory for Experimental Brain Research in Lund, together with American researchers, have discovered a substance that reinforces the brain's self-healing functions after a stroke.
Professor Tadeusz Wieloch and his colleagues have found a way to activate a protein in the brain, the sigma-1 receptor, which plays an important role in the brain's recovery during the critical period after the injury.
The study began with experiments on rats. The animals were subjected to a stroke and then placed in different environments - an enriched cage with extra stimulation in the form of several levels of tubes, beams and ladders, and a normal cage.
"After performing a genetic analysis of the rats that stayed in the normal cage and those that were in an enriched cage, we found that many genes were activated by the enriched environment," Wieloch said.
"One of these genes coded for the protein sigma-1 receptor. We then injected the rats with a specific substance that activated the sigma-1 receptor and found that the rats regained their function more quickly than the untreated animals", the Professor said.
The idea is to recreate and reinforce the brain's natural response to an enriched environment. By injecting the activating substance, brain repair is stimulated.
The study has been published in the scientific journal Brain.