Saving the Brain from Stroke

When a stroke happens, time is of the essence. Brain damage can happen in mere moments. Now Canadian researchers have found a drug that seems to be effective in preventing this damage and protecting brain function. Research into such drugs has been sparse due to pessimism about their efficacy, but this study suggests that such an approach could very well be successful.

When blood vessels in the brain are damaged—broken or blocked—the result is generally a stroke. Blood can’t get to some or all of the brain and brain cells begin to die off. The functions these cells perform, whatever they happen to be, are obviously affected by this; that’s why stroke is the fourth-leading cause of death in the United States and a major cause of disability that isn’t congenital or inborn.

Now a partial solution may soon be at hand.

“Through our lab research and clinical trial, we now have a better method of predicting whether a stroke drug may be effective in humans and we now have the evidence that there is a neuroprotectant that can prevent damage in the brain caused by reduced blood flow,” said Dr. Michael Tymianski, who invented the drug under study, in a statement. “The benefits of this can be explored not only for stroke, but for other conditions such as vascular dementia.”

What that means is that Dr. Tymianski created a medication that protects the brain when it’s not getting proper amounts of bloodflow due to a stroke. Right now it has only been shown to be effective for certain kinds of strokes, but Dr. Tymianski thinks it could work for other kinds as well.

The National Stroke Association’s advice for spotting a stroke is based on the letters in the word “FAST”: face, arms, speech, time. If you think someone is having a stroke, ask them to smile and see if their face droops on one side, ask them to raise both arms and see if one drifts downwards, ask them to repeat a phrase and see if their speech is slurred; if any of these are true, contact emergency medical services immediately and note the time symptoms first appeared. The sooner treatment is begun, the better.

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