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Approved Drug May Preserve Brain Function After Stroke

Feb 04, 2015 05:34 PM EST

New research suggests that an already-approved drug may be able to preserve brain function after a stroke, potentially changing the lives of patients with this debilitating disease.

According to the results, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, the anti-epilepsy drug retigabine successfully preserved brain tissue in a mouse model of stroke, as well as prevented the loss of balance control and motor coordination - hallmark symptoms of stroke.

It should be noted that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved retigabine under the American brand name Ezogabine as an anticonvulsant. However, physicians can use it off label to treat stroke patients. In order for retigabine to officially be FDA-approved as a means of treating stroke specifically, a clinical trial must be conducted.

But this step is an important one, considering stroke affects nearly one million Americans each year.

"As a leading cause of death and disability, stroke poses a major risk to our society," researcher David F. Jimenez said in a press release.

To test retigabine's effectiveness on stroke patients, researchers tested the drug on mice. Hours after a stroke, both treated mice and a control group of mice were placed on a balance beam to observe motor coordination. The untreated mice were slipping and falling, while those treated with the drug proved to be perfectly balanced.

"You couldn't even tell they had a stroke," explained senior author Mark S. Shapiro. "They ran across the balance beam like gymnasts."

In addition, a brain tissue analysis of treated mice showed significantly reduced damage to the tissue after the stroke compared to the control group. Retigabine's protective effects were observed in treated mice up to five days after the stroke, researchers say.

The way retigabine works is that it opens specific proteins called potassium ion channels, which stops the electrical activity of nerve cells in the brain. This could be extremely beneficial for patients suffering from ischemic stroke, the most common type of stroke in humans, in which oxygen and nutrients are suddenly cut off due to a clot in a blood vessel.

"We thought if we could stop the neurons from firing, stopping their electrical activity, we could conserve their resources until the time their blood supply was restored," Shapiro said. "This proved to be the case."

Clinical trials may soon be underway that may lead to the approval of retigabine by the FDA specifically for stroke treatment.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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