A new research by researchers from the University of Exeter claims the discovery of a pathway in the brain that leads to swelling after a stroke and may cause severe brain damage and also responds to a novel treatment. The findings pave the way for reducing stroke-related brain damage.
Published in the journal, Nature Communications, the research has identified how severe damage in the brain due to swelling caused by a stroke is associated with a malfunction of the transportation mechanism of vital proteins.
Development of a new compound
The international team has developed a compound that effectively treats this pathway in laboratory tests, paving the way for a new treatment. This could potentially provide an alternative, more effective way to treat brain swelling, for which currently there are limited treatment options.
The work was developed by a consortium of experts in Signalling Transduction (Dr. Jinwei Zhang, University of Exeter, UK), Medicinal Chemistry (Professor Xianming Deng, Xiamen University, China), Neurosurgery and Cellular and Molecular Physiology (Dr. Kristopher T. Kahle, Yale School of Medicine, USA) and Neurology (Professor Dandan Sun, Veterans Affairs Pittsburgh Healthcare System and University of Pittsburgh, USA).
Stroke is typically caused by a blood clot in the brain and can lead to death within minutes. In the UK alone, more than 100,000 strokes occur each year, averaging one every five minutes. Currently. Two-thirds of stroke survivors leave the hospital with a disability, according to the Stroke Association.
The role of a key protein
A stroke can damage cell volume regulation in the brain, resulting in swelling, a complication that is severe and difficult to treat, currently addressed by the highly invasive surgical procedures of removing part of the skull or inserting a shunt of cerebral spinal fluid. Shunts are particularly susceptible to malfunction and infection, and therefore often require patients to endure a number of repeat operations.
The compound, called ZT-1a, targets a pathway that controls proteins that act as transporters of ions and water in and out of cells. It works by stopping enzymes that activate proteins which bring too much water into the brain. It was tested on mice and rats which had stroke or hydrocephalus, a condition that causes fluid on the brain. These studies indicate that the compound may be able to stop brain swelling, potentially reducing cases of brain injury and death.
Dr. Jinwei Zhang, Lecturer at the University of Exeter Medical School, led a team including collaborators in China and the US, that has developed the compound. He said: "Brain swelling after a stroke is a common and devastating problem for individuals and their families. Our discovery could address the urgent need for treatment that could provide an effective alternative to invasive surgery. The drug is still in the laboratory and requires further development. So far it shows promise in effectively reducing brain swelling in stroke, and other brain injuries such as drowning, choking or heart attack."
(With inputs from agencies)