Ability of brain to protect itself from damage revealed
The origin of an innate ability the brain has to protect itself from damage that occurs in stroke has been explained for the first time.
The Oxford University researchers hope that harnessing this inbuilt biological mechanism, identified in rats, could help in treating stroke and preventing other neurodegenerative diseases in the future.
'We have shown for the first time that the brain has mechanisms that it can use to protect itself and keep brain cells alive,' says Professor Alastair Buchan, Head of the Medical Sciences Division and Dean of the Medical School at Oxford University, who led the work.
The researchers report their findings in the journal Nature Medicine and were funded by the UK Medical Research Council and National Institute for Health Research.
Stroke is the third most common cause of death in the UK. Every year around 150,000 people in the UK have a stroke.
It occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off. When this happens, brain cells are deprived of the oxygen and nutrients they need to function properly, and they begin to die.
'Time is brain, and the clock has started immediately after the onset of a stroke. Cells will start to die somewhere from minutes to at most 1 or 2 hours after the stroke,' says Professor Buchan.
This explains why treatment for stroke is so dependent on speed. The faster someone can reach hospital, be scanned and have drugs administered to dissolve any blood clot and get the blood flow re-started, the less damage to brain cells there will be.
It has also motivated a so-far unsuccessful search for 'neuroprotectants': drugs that can buy time and help the brain cells, or neurons, cope with damage and recover afterwards.
The Oxford University research group have now identified the first example of the brain having its own built-in form of neuroprotection, so-called 'endogenous neuroprotection'.
They did this by going back to an observation first made over 85 years ago. It has been known since 1926 that neurons in one area of the hippocampus, the part of the brain that controls memory, are able to survive being starved of oxygen, while others in a different area of the hippocampus die. But what protected that one set of cells from damage had remained a puzzle until now.
'Previous studies have focused on understanding how cells die after being depleted of oxygen and glucose. We considered a more direct approach by investigating the endogenous mechanisms that have evolved to make these cells in the hippocampus resistant,' explains first author Dr Michalis Papadakis, Scientific Director of the Laboratory of Cerebral Ischaemia at Oxford University.
Working in rats, the researchers found that production of a specific protein called hamartin allowed the cells to survive being starved of oxygen and glucose, as would happen after a stroke.
They showed that the neurons die in the other part of the hippocampus because of a lack of the hamartin response.
The team was then able to show that stimulating production of hamartin offered greater protection for the neurons.
Professor Buchan says: 'This is causally related to cell survival. If we block hamartin, the neurons die when blood flow is stopped. If we put hamartin back, the cells survive once more.'
Finally, the researchers were able to identify the biological pathway through which hamartin acts to enable the nerve cells to cope with damage when starved of energy and oxygen.
The group points out that knowing the natural biological mechanism that leads to neuroprotection opens up the possibility of developing drugs that mimic hamartin's effect.
Professor Buchan says: 'There is a great deal of work ahead if this is to be translated into the clinic, but we now have a neuroprotective strategy for the first time. Our next steps will be to see if we can find small molecule drug candidates that mimic what hamartin does and keep brain cells alive.
'While we are focussing on stroke, neuroprotective drugs may also be of interest in other conditions that see early death of brain cells including Alzheimer's and motor neurone disease,' he suggests.
More information: 'TSC1 (hamartin) confers neuroprotection against ischemia by inducing autophagy' by Michalis Papadakis et al. Nature Medicine, 24 February 2013. DOI: 10.1038/nm.3097
Journal reference: Nature Medicine
Provided by Oxford University
- Do-it-yourself brain repair following stroke Jul 11, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- New research reveals brain's protection mechanism during stroke Aug 16, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- New understanding of brain chemistry could prevent brain damage after injury May 15, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Hypothermia protects the brain against damage during stroke Mar 06, 2012 | not rated yet | 0
- Neuroscientist says a critical protein prevents secondary damage after stroke Nov 02, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Motion perception revisited: High Phi effect challenges established motion perception assumptions Apr 23, 2013 | 3 / 5 (2) | 2
- Anything you can do I can do better: Neuromolecular foundations of the superiority illusion (Update) Apr 02, 2013 | 4.5 / 5 (11) | 5
- The visual system as economist: Neural resource allocation in visual adaptation Mar 30, 2013 | 5 / 5 (2) | 9
- Separate lives: Neuronal and organismal lifespans decoupled Mar 27, 2013 | 4.9 / 5 (8) | 0
- Sizing things up: The evolutionary neurobiology of scale invariance Feb 28, 2013 | 4.8 / 5 (10) | 14
Pressure-volume curve: Elastic Recoil Pressure don't make sense
May 18, 2013 From pressure-volume curve of the lung and chest wall (attached photo), I don't understand why would the elastic recoil pressure of the lung is...
If you became brain-dead, would you want them to pull the plug?
May 17, 2013 I'd want the rest of me to stay alive. Sure it's a lousy way to live but it beats being all-the-way dead. Maybe if I make it 20 years they'll...
MRI bill question
May 15, 2013 Dear PFers, The hospital gave us a $12k bill for one MRI (head with contrast). The people I talked to at the hospital tell me that they do not...
Ratio of Hydrogen of Oxygen in Dessicated Animal Protein
May 13, 2013 As an experiment, for the past few months I've been consuming at least one portion of Jell-O or unflavored Knox gelatin per day. I'm 64, in very...
Alcohol and acetaminophen
May 13, 2013 Edit: sorry for the typo in the title , can't edit I looked around on google quite a bit and it's very hard to find precise information on the...
Marie Curie's leukemia
May 13, 2013 Does anyone know what might be the cause of Marie Curie's cancer
- More from Physics Forums - Medical Sciences
More news stories
In their quest to learn more about the variability of cells between and within tissues, biomedical scientists have devised tools capable of simultaneously measuring dozens of characteristics of individual ...
Medical research 6 hours ago | 5 / 5 (1) | 0 |
In 2008 researchers from the University of Southern Denmark showed that the drug thioridazine, which has previously been used to treat schizophrenia, is also a powerful weapon against antibiotic-resistant bacteria such as ...
Medical research May 17, 2013 | 3.7 / 5 (3) | 0 |
Scientists investigating the interaction of a group of proteins in the brain responsible for protecting nerve cells from damage have identified a new target that could increase cell survival.
Medical research May 17, 2013 | 5 / 5 (1) | 0
New findings by researchers carrying out experiments at the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science's Advanced Photon Source (APS) help explain why some drugs that interact with two kinds of human serotonin ...
Medical research May 17, 2013 | 4 / 5 (1) | 0 |
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin have identified a potential new risk factor for obstructive sleep apnea: asthma. Using data from the National Institutes of Health (Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute)-funded Wisconsin ...
5 hours ago | not rated yet | 0 |
A new study looking at sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) and markers for Alzheimer's disease (AD) risk in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and neuroimaging adds to the growing body of research linking the two.
5 hours ago | 5 / 5 (1) | 0 |
Scientists at Johns Hopkins have turned their view of osteoarthritis (OA) inside out. Literally. Instead of seeing the painful degenerative disease as a problem primarily of the cartilage that cushions joints, ...
6 hours ago | 5 / 5 (2) | 0 |
Gourmands and foodies everywhere have long recognized ginger as a great way to add a little peppery zing to both sweet and savory dishes; now, a study from researchers at Columbia University shows purified components of the ...
5 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
The hunt for an HIV vaccine has gobbled up $8 billion in the past decade, and the failure of the most recent efficacy trial has delivered yet another setback to 26 years of efforts.
10 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
The devastating effect of Alzheimer's disease on bilingual people has been thrown into focus in Canada, where the sudden loss of a second language can leave sufferers feeling like strangers in their own country.
8 hours ago | not rated yet | 0