Scientists in Geneva have discovered that a protein called clusterine appears to reverse the effect of stroke in mice. They say their work might help reduce brain damage following strokes in humans.
The work is a collaboration between the dermatology and psychiatry departments of Geneva University.
About 17,000 people a year in Switzerland suffer a stroke. In the United States, some 600,000 people a year are affected.
Some strokes are fatal while others cause permanent or temporary disabilities, affecting mobility, speech, vision and even understanding.
"We have discovered that a protein called clusterine inhibits cell death and tissue damage after stroke in mice," said Pandelis Giannakopolous, professor of geriatric psychiatry in Geneva.
"The big question is whether clusterine can be effectively used to inhibit tissue damage after stroke in humans."
His colleague, Dr Lars French, who heads the group researching cell death in the university's dermatology department, said the research had another important consequence.
"Most strokes happen when a blood vessel in the brain is blocked by a clot," he said. "The same process happens in other organs - for example in the heart, where it causes myocardial infarction. This is very frequent as well, so our work opens the possibility that this protein may also work is this case too."
The scientists have been producing a purified form of the protein which they hope to test further in mice.
by Vincent Landon