Abnormal blood flow to the brain (due to clots or bleeds), or “stroke”, kills about 4.5 million people every year and there are over 9 million survivors left afflicted worldwide. In the UK and USA, stroke is the third greatest killer and the leading cause of disability. In the UK, stroke services are estimated to account for up to 6% of the NHS budget, not including costs to social services and carers.
Stroke causes death of neurons and loss of their projections ("axons") to various target regions including the opposite side of the spinal cord. This often causes hemiplegia on the side of the body opposite the injury.
Treatment for stroke is currently limited to a "clot busting" drug for ischemic stroke, treatment in a specialist stroke facility, aspirin and to rehabilitation. Prevention is the best medicine: exercise, good diet, less smoking and only moderate alcohol use.
To assist with identification of novel therapies, we have set up a model of focal stroke in elderly rats (Soleman et al., 2010; click here). This aged animal model is important because more than 91% of strokes in Europe occur in people aged more than 65 years old.
We have identified two potential therapies for stroke (chondroitinase ABC and a gene therapy intervention) improve outcome after stroke even when delayed by 24 hours or more. This work is currently being prepared for publication.
It is vital to test therapies for stroke after a realistic delay-to-treatment: in London, more than 50% of stroke victims are not diagnosed within six hours.