COM researchers uncover ‘do-it-yourself’ stroke protection and brain repair

Bix lab from l to r: research assistant Courtney Shaw, grad student Michael Kahle, Dr. Bix, grad student Christi Parham, and research associate Lisa Auckland

Bix’ and team’s research suggests that naturally occurring extracellular matrix fragment represents a promising approach for stroke treatment

(COLLEGE STATION, TX) — Researchers at the Texas A&M Health Science Center (TAMHSC) College of Medicine have proposed a distinct type of treatment that capitalizes on the self-repair processes occurring in the brain after a stroke.

Their study is currently online and scheduled to be in the August issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Stroke is the leading cause of long-term disability and third leading cause of death in the United States. The most common type of stroke, ischemic stroke, occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery, causing nerve cells to die rapidly.

“Most research thus far has focused on acute stroke treatment and neuroprotection only,” said Gregory Bix, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor at the TAMHSC-College of Medicine and study senior author. “However, there is a clear need for ischemic stroke therapy that is both neuroprotective and promotes brain repair. So we hypothesized that using the self-repair mechanisms within the brain may also yield therapeutic strategies.”

Ultimately, the researchers learned an extracellular matrix fragment called perlecan domain V had these therapeutic qualities. Perlecan domain V is part of a cell’s connective tissue, like the glue that holds a cell together.

When systemically administered 24 hours after stroke, perlecan domain V reached the damaged blood vessels within the brain, protected nerve cells from dying and restored stroke-affected motor function to pre-stroke levels in multiple stroke models. Further, when treated with perlecan domain V, subsequent strokes were smaller, less severe, and neuroprotective qualities were still present, Dr. Bix said.

These results suggest perlecan domain V represents a promising approach for stroke treatment, said Dr. Bix, who has studied the inner workings of the human brain during and after a stroke since 2007.

Other contributors to the Journal of Clinical Investigation paper from the TAMHSC-College of Medicine were Boyeon Lee, Douglas Clark, Abraham Al Ahmad, Michael Kahle, Christi Parham, Lisa Auckland and Courtney Shaw. Mehmet Fidanboylu and Sarah A. Thomas from King’s College London, Anthony Wayne Orr from the Louisiana State University Health Science Center in Shreveport, Omolara Ogunshola from the University of Zurich in Switzerland, and Andrzej Fertala from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia also contributed.

Research was supported by the Robert and Janice McNair Foundation, the American Heart Association, the Ted Nash Long Life Foundation, the Texas A&M Health Science Center, Texas A&M University and a National Institutes of Health grant.

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