Researchers have discovered a new drug that can potentially reduce the number of brain cells destroyed by stroke as well as help in repairing the damage done. Stroke — caused by a reduction in blood flow to the brain — is a major cause of death as well as disability. Scientists at the University of Manchester, UK, have found that in rodents with stroke, treatment with the anti-inflammatory drug, interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1Ra), can not only limit the death of existing brain cells but also promote the birth of new neurons.
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These new cells are thought to help restore function to areas of the brain damaged by the stroke. The use of IL-1Ra not only limits the initial damage to brain cells, but also helps the brain repair itself long-term through the generation of new brain cells, the researchers said.
Previous studies showed the treatment with IL-1Ra does indeed help rodents regain motor skills that were initially lost after a stroke. Early stage clinical trials in human stroke patients also suggest that IL-1Ra could be beneficial.
“The results lend further strong support to the use of IL-1Ra in the treatment of stroke; however, further large trials are necessary,” said Stuart Allan, Professor at the University of Manchester. The drug is already licensed for use in humans for some conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis.
Several early stage clinical trials in stroke with IL-1Ra have already been completed in Manchester, though it is not yet licensed for this condition, the researchers noted, in the paper published in the journal Brain, Behaviour and Immunity.