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Sepsis Drug Prevents Stroke Damage

Drug Used to Prevent Life-Threatening Organ Infections May Protect Brain Cells
WebMD Health News

Feb. 3, 2003 -- A drug recently approved to treat life-threatening infections and organ failure may also help stroke victims.

The study appears in the February issue of Nature Medicine.

The most common type of stroke, called an ischemic stroke, occurs when the blood supply to a part of the brain is suddenly interrupted by a blood clot. Deprived of oxygen and nutrients, brain cells begin to die -- some within two or three hours.

Only one drug has shown promise in protecting brain cells from damage from stroke by dissolving clots. However, that drug, called tPA (tissue plasminogen activator), helps protect brain cells if given early after the event -- but can cause damage to cells that survive for several hours after the stroke.

The drug in this current study -- known as activated protein C (APC) -- works as a blood thinner and anti-inflammatory. APC is approved to successfully treat life-threatening sepsis infections, an infection that involves multiple organs of the body. Researchers haven't known whether APC could protect brain cells.

In this study, researchers used APC in treating mice who have had a stroke, writes lead researcher Tony Cheng, with the Center for Aging and Developmental Biology at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York.

Cheng and colleagues found that APC indeed directly prevents brain cell death and improves cell survival in mice.

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