Rebuilding the brain after stroke

Enhancing the brain’s inherent ability to rebuild itself after a stroke with molecular components of stem cells holds enormous promise for treating the leading cause of long-term disability in adults.

Michael Chopp, Ph.D., Scientific Director of the Henry Ford Neuroscience Institute, will present this approach to treating neurological diseases Thursday, Feb. 13, at the American Heart Association’s International Stroke Conference in San Diego.

Although most stroke victims recover some ability to voluntarily use their hands and other body parts, half are left with weakness on one side of their body, and a substantial number are permanently disabled.

No treatment currently exists for improving or restoring this lost motor function in stroke patients, mainly because of mysteries about how the brain and nerves repair themselves.

But Dr. Chopp and other Henry Ford scientists may have solved some of these mysteries through experiments at the molecular level identifying and testing components of stem cells.

“Even in older people, the central nervous system is highly plastic, meaning it has a unique ability to change and rebuild itself,” Dr. Chopp explains. “We have demonstrated that this plasticity can be stimulated to promote neurological recovery after a stroke.”

Rebuilding the brain after strokeOne such therapy involves proteins that shape the developing brain, specifically a type that releases tissue plasminogen activator, or tPA, which causes axons and dendrites - the brain’s neural cables and communications network - to rewire.

“We have shown that administering tPA in a nasal spray promotes this rewiring and significantly enhances neurological recovery,” Dr. Chopp says.

Stroke Facts

  Stroke is a leading cause of death in the United States, killing nearly 130,000 Americans each year-that’s 1 of every 19 deaths.

  A stroke, sometimes called a brain attack, occurs when a clot blocks the blood supply to the brain or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts.

  Someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds. Every four minutes, someone dies of stroke.

  Every year, about 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke. About 610,000 of these are first or new strokes; 185,000 are recurrent strokes.

  Stroke is an important cause of disability. Stroke reduces mobility in more than half of stroke survivors age 65 and over.

  Stroke costs the nation $38.6 billion annually, including the cost of health care services, medications, and lost productivity.

  You can’t control some stroke risk factors, like heredity, age, gender, and ethnicity. Some medical conditions-including high blood pressure, High cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, overweight or obesity, and previous stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA)-can also raise your stroke risk. Avoiding smoking and drinking too much alcohol, eating a balanced diet, and getting exercise are all choices you can make to reduce your risk.

Dr. Chopp will also speak at the AHA conference about other microscopic material in stem cells called exosomes that offer a “robust” treatment for stroke’s crippling effects.

Rebuilding the brain after stroke These blister-like microscopic “bubbles” were once were thought to carry and get rid of “old” proteins that were no longer needed by the body. However, exosomes were recently found to provide an essential form of “communication” between brain cells using “packages” sent out by stem cells with vital directions for gene regulation.

This is done through microRNA, master molecular switches that alter brain cells and promote recovery from trauma.

Dr. Chopp and his team have shown and confirmed that stem cell therapy works by firing off these “information bullets.”

Stroke Facts
• In Australia, stroke is the second biggest cause of death and a leading cause of disability.
• In Australia there are 60,000 strokes each year.
• One in six people will have a stroke in their lifetime.
• A stroke occurs every 10 minutes.
• Stroke kills more women than breast cancer and more men than prostate cancer.
• About 20 percent of strokes happen to people under the age of 55.
• Most of those people will require hospital care and more than one-third of those admitted to hospital will move to rehabilitation services after acute care.
• An estimated 350,000 people are living with stroke in Australia. Not only is each of these individuals affected by their stroke, their families and carers also have to deal with the consequences.

But they have also shown that neurological diseases can be treated with exosomes alone, separate from stem cells.

“This approach may be a revolutionary way to successfully treat stroke and many other diseases,” Dr. Chopp says.


Dwight Angell
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Henry Ford Health System

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