Thursday, February 02, 2012
Led by Louisiana State University neurologist Dr. Nicolas Bazan, a team of researchers from several institutions has claimed a potential breakthrough in drug treatment to prevent long-term brain damage in those who suffer certain strokes. Bazan directed a study that, using laboratory rats, administered aspirin and an omega-3 essential fatty acid to yield a new protective molecule that can mitigate damage to cells around the area of an ischemic stroke. Ischemic stroke occurs when an arterial blockage denies oxygenated blood to parts of the brain, as opposed to hemorrhagic stroke, which occurs when a vessel bursts inside the brain.
Stroke is the fourth-leading cause of death in the United States and the leading cause of newly acquired disability in adulthood. Bazan presented his findings Thursday at the International Stroke Conference, which concludes Friday at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans.
The study, which was financed by a National Institutes of Health grant, was designed to analyze benefits of neuroprotective agents — long a focus of Bazan’s career — that can help prevent irreversible damage in the stroke-affected area. There is considerable research interest internationally in neuroprotectors as an additional therapy beyond the more developed, widely used thrombolytic therapy or drugs that break up and dissolve the clot itself.
Bazan’s study relied in part on his previous research on the role of omega-3 essential fatty acids in neuroprotection. In the latest discovery, Bazan said the team discovered that aspirin and the omega-3 acid DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) yield in the brain a neuroprotective molecule. Bazan said the synthesis results from how aspirin, a common anti-inflammatory agent, acts on a certain enzyme protein that he described as “evil and angel” in brain chemistry.
In the study with rats, Bazan’s team chemically generated that new molecule outside of the brain. Then, the animal subjects were anesthetized and induced with a middle cerebral artery blockage for two hours. In humans, the middle cerebral artery is the largest artery in the brain and the most commonly affected by stroke. Because it affects such a large portion of the brain, MCA stroke can affect many physical abilities and cognitive functions.
The rats who received the neuroprotector treatment displayed significantly less damage than the saline group, ranging from 44 percent to 81 percent fewer lesions in various parts of the brain. They also demonstrated lower water volume, a sign of less damage following ischemic stroke. In both measures, the methyl-ether results outpaced sodium salt results.