Protecting the brain after stroke

Imagine watching every second, of every minute, of every hour tick by in the back of an ambulance that is still hours away from the nearest major hospital. 

Imagine knowing that your loved one’s brain function – their memories of you, your family, your life – and their ability to breathe and function normally is slipping away. 

Professor Glenn King from The University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience says treating those experiencing a stroke comes with daunting obstacles. 

“When somebody has a stroke, no treatment can begin until they are transported to hospital and their brain is imaged and you determine what type of stroke it is, during which time they could be losing two million neurons per minute.”

However, a solution might well be close if donor support is found.

“We have discovered a molecule – remarkably it is from a local spider – and what we’ve shown is that protein is able to protect the brain after stroke,” King said.

“The venom shuts off a specific ion pathway in the brain that is responsible for triggering massive cell death after stroke.” 

“You should be able to administer it to any stroke patient, and that means you will be able to protect the brain during the time that you are transporting them to hospital. Therefore you will rescue much more of the brain, and the outcomes after the stroke will be a better quality of life.” 

Importantly, the drug will be able to be administered by a first responder, such as a paramedic, as soon as they reach the patient.

The drug candidate has been successful in preclinical trials, but King said further funding is needed to push it through to clinical trials.

“Not only have we seen that this drug protects the brain in our early trials, but we have seen a range of additional benefits that could prevent damage in the heart and other organs during various procedures.

“We do not have the capacity to produce enough of the drug needed to conduct the next clinical trial in our own labs. We need donations and support to help us engage a company to make a quantity large enough for us to run the next stage of trials.”