New treatment results in less brain damage following stroke

Stroke patients will be welcoming the news of a discovery by a University of Alberta scientist that may have significant future implications for treatment of the disease. Dr. Fred Colbourne, from the Faculty of Science, has shown that a novel rehabilitation regimen has proven remarkably effective in promoting recovery in hemorrhagic stroke–or ruptured blood vessels–in rats.

From the University of Alberta:
Novel treatment results in less brain damage following stroke

Stroke patients will be welcoming the news of a discovery by a University of Alberta scientist that may have significant future implications for treatment of the disease. Dr. Fred Colbourne, from the Faculty of Science, has shown that a novel rehabilitation regimen has proven remarkably effective in promoting recovery in hemorrhagic stroke–or ruptured blood vessels–in rats.

The results, which are published in the April issue of the prestigious journal Stroke should stimulate others to test this therapy in patients suffering from this type of stroke, said Colbourne. This specific injury is notoriously a difficult one to treat–in fact, most experimental studies find no benefit. Not only were Colbourne’s results positive, but more surprisingly, the research team found that this rehabilitation method actually resulted in less brain damage even though the therapy was started one week after the insult.

“I could not believe this, so we actually have already retested this finding and it replicated,” said Colbourne, adding timing of when to begin the treatment is very important. “We are very excited by these findings.”

The regimen involved the combination of restraining the good limb to force the use of the impaired limb and exercises. This therapy is being tested for a different form of stroke but hemorrhagic stroke patients are often ignored from these sorts of studies, said Colbourne. Hemorrhagic stroke is very devastating with a high mortality rate and often survivors are left with significant functional impairments including loss of movement and brain function.

“It concerns us that patients with hemorrhagic strokes aren’t included in trials, since one should not assume that the effects of a therapy in one stroke type–or brain region–would be the same in other stroke types,” said Colbourne.

The treatment was likely successful because it promoted a remodelling of the remaining brain, stimulated the production of growth factors and surprisingly reduced the volume of tissues that was destroyed by the hemorrhage, said Colbourne.

He now hopes these findings will prompt the testing of this therapy in stroke patients. “Our data suggest that relatively early interventions after hemorrhagic stroke in humans should be safe.”

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The U of A in Edmonton, Alberta is one of Canada’s premier teaching and research universities serving more than 33,000 students with 6,000 faculty and staff. It continues to lead the country with the most 3M Teaching Fellows, Canada’s only national award recognizing teaching excellence.

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