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Sunday, 22 July, 2001, 00:09 GMT 01:09 UK
'Treatment for stroke' hope
A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is disrupted
A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is disrupted
Scientists believe they may have found a way of minimising the damage caused by stroke.

When a person suffers a stroke, part of the brain is destroyed.

The surrounding tissue can also be damaged, making the effects of the stroke worse - but the tissue can recover.

Researchers from the University of Manchester think blocking the action of a key protein may limit the damage caused.


We are testing the safety of this promising new treatment in patients in the acute phase of stroke

Dr Craig Smith,
University of Manchester
Strokes happen when the blood supply to the brain is disrupted, depriving it of oxygen and other key nutrients, which mean some cells become damaged or die.

Around 100,000 people have a stroke every year in England and Wales.

It is the third most common cause of death, with 60,000 occurring each year. Strokes can also cause permanent or temporary disabilities.

'Blocking' damage

The Manchester research, carried out at Hope Hospital in Salford, focuses on a class of protein called cytokines, which are thought to play a role in the damage done to surrounding tissue after a stroke.

They have identified a cytokine called interleukin-1 which has a natural blocker in the body, which could prevent the damage, called interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1ra).

IL-1ra has been used to treat other diseases without patients suffering side effects.

A small scale trial, funded by Research into Ageing, (part of Help the Aged) is now underway where IL1-ra is being given as an infusion to stroke patients, and compared to a placebo.

If successful, larger scale research will be carried out.

Dr Craig Smith, a member of the research team told a Research into Ageing meeting in London on Friday: "Stroke is a major cause of death and disability and treatment options for patients are currently disappointing.

"Provisional laboratory research indicates consistently that IL-1ra dramatically reduces injury to the brain so we are testing the safety of this promising new treatment in patients in the acute phase of stroke."

'Devastating'

Mike Lake, director of Help the Aged, said: "Stroke is a devastating illness. Our understanding of how it causes such an extensive injury to the brain is far from complete - but this is an important step forward.

"There is a lot of evaluation still to be done, but we are moving closer to a treatment."

Eoin Redahan of The Stroke Association said: "We have known about the disabling affects of inflammation around the stroke affected area for sometime now.

"A number of researchers are working hard to counteract and control this inflammation."

He added: "It is exciting to hear about a possible treatment but it is still in the very early stage. It will also be important when medicines like this finally come through, and I am sure they will, that stroke is treated as a medical emergency."

He said at the moment, the best way to care for someone who has had a stroke was to ensure they are treated in a specialist stroke unit.

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See also:

16 Jul 01 | Health
'My child's battle after stroke'
18 May 01 | Health
Stroke research warning
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