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Advances in health and medicine.
Marjorie Bekaert Thomas
Advances in health and medicine.
Cardiovascular Health Channel
Reported June 17, 2011

Reversing Stroke Damage with a Shot -- In Depth Doctor's Interview

Nicolas Bazan, MD, PhD., a neuroscientist at LSU Health Sciences Ctr., discusses how injecting DHA into patients who just suffered from a stroke can ultimately protect against damage.

What is the main goal of the studies that are currently ongoing for stroke patients as well as the future studies still on the drawing boards?

Dr. Nicolas Guillermo Bazan: Well, the main point of this study was to ask the question: Can we protect the penumbra of the stroke?  Because in the stroke, the area of the brain that is without blood supply, that usually so damaged that it is often times difficult to salvage, is an area that we call the penumbra. That is a short-lived area that only stays around for a few hours and then vanishes and then also becomes damaged. So the target of potential therapies is to protect that particular area of the brain called the penumbra.

What happens when that area eventually becomes damaged?

Dr. Nicolas Guillermo Bazan: The consequences of the stroke are even larger in addition to the severity of it. In the United States alone, we have about 750,000 patients every year with stroke. One-third of those aforementioned patients will not survive, one-third of those patients will end up with severe disability, and the last third of those patients will be amenable to some type of rehabilitation therapy.

Can you briefly discuss this novel breakthrough that you have discovered, and what that means for the 750,000 patient each year that are affected by the detrimental consequences of having a stroke?

Dr. Nicolas Guillermo Bazan: It was really a surprise, because we did an experimental therapeutic approach. We did two hours of experimental stroke (no circulation to one side of the brain), and then one hour following the stroke injected an IV of DHA, which is a component of fish oil, and it is moreover a very imperative component of our everyday diet that the human body cannot make on its own. In due course, the DHA ended up in the brain as well as the retina of the eye. What we found was that one-day after we have remarkable protection; however, the main surprise was that if we gave these one hour, two hours, three hours, four hours . . . even five hours later, we still have protection and we actually follow the protection up to seven days later. This is called a therapeutic window, and the riddle for delaying stroke has been to have the medication that protects the brain with a long therapeutic window, because a patient who has a stroke (he or she is brought to the emergency room following the stroke) – the decision has to be made in the emergency room, the type and severity of the stroke has to be determined and then time passes. So here, with this injection, we allow for a five-hour therapeutic window, and the result in protection is utterly remarkable in quite a few levels.

Ultimately, does the protection last and prevent further damage from occurring that could be irreversible?

Dr. Nicolas Guillermo Bazan: We have followed it up to seven days later, and we have actually seen in a multitude of forms (followed via MRI) shows shrinkage. Subsequently,  we see the neurological recovery – the motor function as well as the sensorial function responds to the treatment – and then we can actually quantify the neurological recovery. We went into the intimacy of the mechanisms on the level of cells in addition to the level of molecules, and we have identified the changes that have been made in the brain from DHA that we have hulled in nueuro-protecting D1. This neuro-protecting D1 made from the DHA injected into the blood circulation, seemed to be the driver of the protection. It is exceptionally interesting and enthralling for all of us in this field.

Does this merely stop the progression of the affects from the stroke, or does in actually reverse the consequences of it?

Dr. Nicolas Guillermo Bazan: What it does is two things. The main being neuro-protection. That is the major benefit of this particular treatment. Secondly, the part of the brain that is already undergoing damage – in the brain is a process called neuroinflammation. Instead of generating an inflammation that leads to damage, ‘results’ the inflammation in a good way. We call it “resolution of inflammation.”  So, the fact is, this therapy boasts both protection as well as diversion of cells that are in the process of being severely injured.

It is really true what they say, and I know that this relates to your field especially: Time is life.

Dr. Nicolas Guillermo Bazan: Yes. Time is life . . . after stroke. Time is the most key and furthermore imperative element when dealing with strokes, because having four or five hours of a window to do other things, or just to find even sustained delivery . . . this could nevertheless be the way for protecting and minimizing  the appalling consequences that come with having a stroke. You know, we only injected one dose. It was only one injection. In fact, we experimented with myriad doses before finding that one dose actually offers utmost benefit.

How do you think that this particular therapy would be administered to patients with strokes?

Dr. Nicolas Guillermo Bazan: It would be delivered via intravenously, and performed in an emergency room right after the patient arrived. Then the certain diagnosis of stroke is made, and at that time the injection will be made, but we have to always be creative and eventually something like this therapy can be done in ambulances (before they even get to the hospital or emergency room for that matter) as the very first defense against somebody who is suffering from a stroke. We suspect also that head trauma will additionally be protected against these mechanisms. Also, think about accidents where people endure serious head trauma. This can even be used on the football field. The opportunities for this particular treatment are endless. I think that it is an exceptionally exciting mechanism from the scientific point of view, because as I said before, this has allowed us to begin unraveling the neuromolecular protection of the brain, which is one of the biggest riddles in medicine.


 This information is intended for additional research purposes only. It is not to be used as a prescription or advice from Ivanhoe Broadcast News, Inc. or any medical professional interviewed. Ivanhoe Broadcast News, Inc. assumes no responsibility for the depth or accuracy of physician statements. Procedures or medicines apply to different people and medical factors; always consult your physician on medical matters.

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If you would like more information, please contact:

Leslie Capo, Media Relations
LSU Health Sciences Center
(504) 568-4806

To read the full report, Stopping Stroke Damage with a Shot, click here.

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