Modifying the scar tissue that develops after a stroke may be a treatment for the repercussions of such an attack, according to a new study.
The promising finding comes from the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in Novato, Calif., which put out a press release about its study.
The research, published in the May 21 online edition of The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, used spinal cord repair studies as its base.
Scientists, using rats, “infused the stroke cavity with either the enzyme chondroitinase ABC (ChABC) or the protein heparan sulfate proteoglycan glypican (glypican),” according to the press release. “In both cases the treatments improved outcome in the animals – they had less weakness and improved coordination.”
Lead researcher Dr. Justin Hill said both treatments reduced the size of the scar tissue that had formed following the stroke and essentially sparked activity in neurons in areas surrounding the injury, stimulating the growth of new neurites, which are the terminal extensions of nerves.
“We think the scar tissue not only blocks off areas of the brain that are injured during stroke, we also believe the scar tissue secretes factors that impact the function of nearby neurons,” Hill said in a statement. “Dissolving the scar may spur neurons to re-route connections around the area injured during the stroke.”
According to the Buck Institute press release, “researchers found that treatment with glypican increased the expression of fibroblast growth factor-2 (FGF-2) near the site of injury and that ChABC increased brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) expression, both of which have been shown to increase neuron size and survival.”
The institute said that there is a dire need for treatments for chronic stroke patients. There are 750,000 new strokes annually in the United States, and they are a leading cause of morbidity and mortality.
“Aside from physical and occupational therapy, treatments for the 6 million patients in the U.S. who suffer from chronic stroke are lacking; the vast majority of patients remain in an ongoing state of disability with little hope of return to normal function,” the institute’s press release said.
“There are only a handful of laboratories that are focused on treatments for chronic stroke,” Buck faculty member Dr. David Greenberg said in a statement. “Dr. Hill’s research is groundbreaking in that it is the first to apply this research on spinal cord injury to stroke and uncovers some of the underlying mechanisms involved in improved function.”
The research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health.
The Buck Institute is the U.S.’s first independent research organization devoted to Geroscience – focused on the connection between normal aging and chronic disease. Its scientists seek to discover new ways of detecting, preventing and treating age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, cancer, cardiovascular disease, macular degeneration, diabetes and stroke.