February 25 – British researchers may have made a breakthrough in the search for emergency treatments for stroke victims, it was announced last night. The dean of Oxford University Medical School has led a group which tracked down the natural substances which protect some brain cells. The proteins, known as hamartins, are found in the part of the brain that controls memory, the hippocampus, an area where cells are able to survive being starved of oxygen.
The researchers have reported their findings in Nature Medicine. They say they have shown it is possible to stimulate hamartins to improve protection of brain cells.
Researcher Professor Alastair Buchan said: “We have shown for the first time that the brain has mechanisms that it can use to protect itself and keep brain cells alive.”
He added: “There is a great deal of work ahead if this is to be translated into the clinic, but we now have a neuroprotective strategy for the first time.
“Our next steps will be to see if we can find small molecule drug candidates that mimic what hamartin does and keep brain cells alive.”
Michalis Papadakis et al. TSC1 (hamartin) confers neuroprotection against ischemia by inducing autophagy. Nature Medicine 24 February 2013
Image Courtesy of: artM