Researchers have successfully discovered a new method that is capable of significantly minimizing the brain damage caused by stroke.
The new method focused on reducing brain damage during stroke was conducted on a mouse model. It works by targeting hemichannels. Hemichannels are the pathways that facilitate the flow of chemical ions and small molecules in the body. These are expressed by astrocytes. Astrocytes are the cells that safeguard the neurons present inside the brain.
Stroke is a medical situation when blood flows into the brain stops and the hemichannels open to release toxic molecules. These molecules on reaching the space outside astrocytes, cause inflammation and can also damage to neurons inside the brain.
To conduct this study, the researchers majorly focused on ischemic strokes. During ischemic strokes, the arteries to the brain get narrowed or blocked and the blood flow to the brain gets reduced by a large amount.
The method used by researchers that was capable of reducing the damage caused to the brain during stroke included making some changes in the channel proteins, called connexins. It was done by ceasing the formation of hemichannels.
Because of the absence of hemichannels, the astrocytes become efficient enough to protect the neurons inside the brain. This, in turn, helps in lowering the pain and injury during stroke.
In another study, in the same model, researchers used a molecule called Gap19 to do the same task as above i.e blocking the formation of hemichannels. This also resulted in less brain damage during stroke.
This shows that connexin hemichannel blockers can be helpful in protecting the neurons inside the brain against stroke. For better results, the researchers tried to copy the “real life“ stroke situations like, before using the drug, they waited for two hours after the stroke occurred.
Moises Freitas-Andrade, the lead author of the study and a research fellow at The Ottawa Hospital Research Institute said, "Our study definitively confirms that hemichannels are detrimental in stroke, and that we can block them to minimize damage to the brain. It's a different approach to stroke treatment. A lot of previous research has focused on trying to protect neurons, but here we sought a way to enhance the astrocytes’ ability to protect neurons in stroke."
Study's senior author Christian Naus said, "It was important for us that we used a clinically realistic treatment window, especially if we were testing a drug that could potentially be used for treatment one day.”
Naus added, “For the average person who has a stroke, two hours could easily elapse by the time paramedics arrive and the patient is taken to the hospital and starts receiving treatment. This sets the stage for a combined approach where one could not only directly treat neurons in stroke, but could also enhance the astrocytes' ability to protect neurons under stroke conditions."
According to NCBI, stroke is a very common medical situation in India and it affects 105 to 152 out of 100,000 persons per year in different parts of the country.
The findings of this study might be helpful in treating other diseases or problems causing damage to the brain or neurons inside the brain. These might include traumatic brain injuries and Alzheimer's disease