The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains that stroke is among the leading causes of death in the U.S. Risk factors for stroke include inactivity, obesity, high blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol, and diabetes. At the moment, doctors have no medications to offer stroke victims to help them recover faster.
However, neuroscientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine demonstrated in a recent study that a compound has the ability to speed the growth of new nerve cells in mice that have had strokes. The study’s mice also recovered quicker and saw the return of their athletic ability sooner.
Furthermore, the article points out that this compound was not even given to the mice until three days after their strokes. “This means that the compound works not by limiting a stroke’s initial damage to the brain, but by enhancing recovery,” the research review explains.
This compound, LM22A-4, mimics “a key activity of a hefty, brain-based protein” that helps the brain generate new neurons. Furthermore, this is a small molecule less than one-seventieth the size of the brain protein it mimics.
The article notes that although stem cell therapy holds much promise, its cost and invasiveness make it a less attractive way to “replace lost or damaged tissue.” The use of this compound to stimulate the “brain’s own stem cells to form new neurons” would be a completely new approach to treating stroke patients, Frank Longo, M.D., Ph.D., co-author of the study pointed out.
The study’s senior author, Marion Buckwalter, M.D., Ph.D., notes that the one approved stroke drug available today can only “bust up clots that initially caused the stroke,” not help with the recovery of brain tissue and function. In addition, this medication needs to be administered within four and a half hours after a stroke for it to work, which is an unrealistic time frame for most patients.
The CDC reports that in 2010 alone, strokes cost the U.S. an estimated $53.9 billion. This includes the cost of health care, medication, and missed work.