Stroke occurs when a part of the brain does not receive sufficient oxygen, resulting in the death of brain cells in the affected area. One of the main factors determining the prognosis of stroke patients is the time taken to receive treatment, as the damage is considered irreversible and is expected to worsen with time.
Researchers at the University of Manchester have found that an anti-inflammatory drug not only limits death of brain cells but also helps formation of new brain cells (neurons) in rodents. The drug, an interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1Ra), is already approved for use in humans for other conditions, and is currently undergoing clinical trials for use in stroke. This study, led by Professor Stuart Allen and was published in the journal Brain, Behaviors and Immunity. Authors claim that upon treatment with IL-1Ra, rodents showed reduced brain damage after stroke, and an increase in the number of newly born neurons.
Current management of stroke involves limiting the damage by treating the underlying cause (such as blood clots) and improving blood flow to the brain, followed by long-term recovery and rehabilitation. IL-1Ra may have greater value over other drugs, as in addition to limiting initial brain damage, it also helps the brain to repair itself by forming new neurons, and hence may restore the function of the affected area.
Professor Stuart Allan said “The results lend further strong support to the use of IL-1Ra in the treatment of stroke, however further large trials are necessary”. Early stage clinical trials of the drug have shown promising results in stroke patients.
Paper available under open access here.