A new study by researchers from the University of Rochester, New York suggests that the activated protein C (APC), a protein with anti-inflammatory and anti-coagulant properties,which until now is being used to treat septic infections, may also help reduce the damage caused by stroke. Researchers who conducted the study on mice found that APC could protect brain cells from the secondary damage associated with ischemic stroke by preventing apoptosis, a form of programmed cell death. The study has shown that APC reduced apoptosis by 65 per cent and neurological deficits by 91 per cent when given to mice following a stroke. Currently, only tissue plasminogen activator is useful for the 80 per cent of strokes that involve a blood clot, but can damage cells if given after the first few hours.
Further analysis by this team of researchers has shown that APC blocks p53, a molecule that drives cells towards apoptosis following stroke. APC works through two cellular receptors, called endothelial protein C receptor and protease-activated receptor 1, to reduce the level of p53 in damaged cells by 75 per cent. APC also increases anti-apoptotic signals that instruct cells to survive. Researchers concluded that the compound which is working in a completely unexpected way could spur further research to help develop treatments that reduce the lifelong disability often associated with stroke.