FDA Approved Drug Could Permanently Repair Brain Damage From Strokes

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A drug approved to treat rheumatoid arthritis has the potential to prevent and reverse damage in stroke victims.

An old drug with a new use holds potential to prevent and repair damage in victims of stroke. The treatment was developed by researchers at the University of Manchester hope the drug - already granted approval for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis - might lead to relief for thousands of people affected by stroke.

[Researchers] developed their treatment using mice bred to develop ischemic strokes, the most prevalent type of stroke and one that occurs when an artery that supplies oxygen-rich blood to the brain is blocked. Soon after the mice experienced a stroke, the researchers treated them with interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1Ra), an anti-inflammatory drug that is already licensed for use in treating rheumatoid arthritis.

They noticed a reduction in the amount of brain damage typically observed after a stroke and also noted that the drug boosted neurogenesis (the birth of new cells) in the areas that did experience brain damage in the days following the treatment. The mice even regained the motor skills they lost due to the stroke.

Given that stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States, with about 800,000 people affected each year, this latest research represents an urgent need.

[Strokes] occur when the flow of blood to the brain is interrupted, usually due to a blood clot or a buildup of fat that broke off from the arteries and traveled to the brain. The condition is extremely dangerous because brain cells can die within a few minutes of the stroke, causing permanent damage or even death.