February 10, 2011

Stroke of Genius?

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Joseph V. Madia, MD By:

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Novel-based therapy may help stroke, traumatic brain injury patients

(dailyRx News) Brain devastation resulting from stroke and head trauma is often due to the overproduction of a substance in the brain called glutamate. A new method of therapy may prevent this from happening.

Glutamate, a short-lived neurotransmitter, is normally almost absent in brain fluids. Following injury or stroke, ischemia (lack of blood flow) usually occurs in the brain, which causes glutamate to flood the brain. High levels of glutamate in the brain end up causing cell death by allowing calcium to flood the neuron. 

Many drugs are not able to cross the blood-brain barrier, making treatment for stroke and head trauma a challenge. But Professor Vivian I. Teichberg of the Weizmann Institute of Science's Neurobiology Department has devised a way for a naturally-occurring enzyme (glutamate-oxaloacetate transaminase or GOT) to "scavenge" blood glutamate and thus, lower levels of glutamate in the brain following stroke or injury.

In this method, tiny transporters on the capillaries that work on differences in glutamate concentration transport glutamate from the brain to the blood.

Now, two new studies from the University of Santiago de Compostela, Spain, demonstrate the method is effective in rats by using a chemical similar to GOT, known as oxolacetate, which could lead to more effective post-stroke and post-brain trauma treatments.

The Researchers in Spain also discovered some of the most significant indicators of the prognosis in stroke are glutamate levels and GOT levels. High levels of glutamate meant poorer prognosis (in terms of time spent recovering and amount of brain damage), whereas high levels of GOT indicated better prognosis in stroke victims.

Stroke is the third leading cause of death and the No.1 cause of long-term disability in the United States, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). African-Americans are at higher risk of stroke than Caucasians.

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Reviewed by: 
Joseph V. Madia, MD
Review Date: 
February 9, 2011

Last Updated:
February 10, 2011