Professor Alastair Buchan, Head of the Medical Sciences Division and Dean of the Medical School at Oxford University and colleagues announced their discovery of a naturally produced brain protein that can prevent oxygen and glucose starvation that cause stroke in the Feb. 25, 2013, issue of the journal Nature Medicine.
Since 1926, scientists have known that one part of the hippocampus, the part of the brain that controls memory, was able to survive oxygen starvation.
The new research found that the protein hamartin allowed the cells to survive being starved of oxygen and glucose, as would happen after a stroke.
The researchers identified the biological pathway through which hamartin acts to enable the nerve cells to cope with damage when starved of energy and oxygen.
This discovery provides the opportunity to develop hamartin like drugs that can be administered by paramedics or physicians as soon after a person has a stroke as possible. The protection of nerve death from lack of oxygen and glucose can prevent much of the debilitating effects that strokes have.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) over 800,000 people die each year from stroke in the United States.
This research is the first example of the brain having its own resident form of neuroprotection, called endogenous neuroprotection.