Fighting stroke damage

A drug based on a molecule naturally present in infants – but which declines in adulthood – can halve the scarring in brains of those who have suffered stroke. And it can be delivered up to a week afterward.

The drug developed by James and Leon minimises the amount of scarring after the wound has been stabilised. Credit: Leon Teo
Enlarged cell bodies (pink), with increased scar-forming (green) following stroke. Credit: Leon Teo

“We hope our work will improve the recovery of the elderly, as well as people in rural and remote communities, who haven’t had access to speedy treatment following a stroke,” says Associate Professor James Bourne at the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI ), and Chief Investigator of the research.

The current treatment, a drug called tPA, is limited to ischemic strokes (caused by a blood clot).

Only 10 per cent of all stroke patients qualify for treatment using the clot-busting drug, which can have harmful side-effects including haemorrhages.

The optimum treatment window for tPA is within three hours of the stroke, with a 35 per cent success rate.

James and his colleague Leon Teo have now patented their molecule, which can extend the ‘window of opportunity’ for effective therapy.

It activates a pathway in the recovering brain, mimicking the process that occurs in infants: cells are still allowed to create a barrier to infection and stabilise the wound after the stroke damage, but the amount of subsequent scarring is limited.

This may encourage recovery since scarring after a stroke is a major factor that hinders the brain’s natural repair systems, and leads to loss of function.

“Research has shown that over the past decade, more than 1,000 stroke drugs developed in rodent models have failed trials in the clinic,” Leon says.

“This drug has been successful in a non-human primate, which has a stroke-response much closer to that of humans.”

They hope to expand their pre-clinical trial and move to clinical trials soon, eventually applying the work to other brain injuries – for example limiting damage from brain cancer removal, or following traumatic accidents.

For more information:
Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI)
James Bourne
+61 399029603

For all other enquiries:
Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI)
Silvio Tiziani, +61 (0)3 9902 9603

[1] ARMI is part of the Australian arm of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, based at Monash University