A world-first human trial, led by Melbourne researchers, to halt the death of brain cells by cooling the brain and blood in patients suffering from stroke.
Nearly 60,000 Australians suffer from a stroke each year, but only 20 pc are eligible to be treated with the clot busting drug tPA - tissue Plasminogen activator that reopens blood supply to the brain.
The researchers believe that the trial, if successful, will save tens of thousands of Australians each year from the life-long disabilities caused by stroke, reports the Herald Sun.
"Once a blood vessel is blocked after a stroke, it's being starved of oxygen and starts to die off. If we can slow down the rate of damage to brain tissue and blood vessels, we will buy ourselves more time to safely clot-bust and restore blood flow," said Associate Prof David Howells, head of the Florey Neuroscience Institute's stroke unit.
"Instead of there being a 4 1/2-hour window where we can use tPA, you potentially have theoretically longer," he added.
The new hypothermia technique aims to slow metabolism in the brain and extend the time for which stroke patients can be given the drug.
The treatment works by lowering a patients' core temperature by three degrees to 34 degrees for 24 hours. This is done by placing cooling pads around the body or injecting into the blood of a tiny device, which acts like a refrigerator.
While the trial of 1500 patients is happening this year in Europe, Howells and his Melbourne team will be working on developing a biomarker to measure if the treatment is working for individual patients.