A potential new treatment for stroke has taken a major step forward following promising results from the first clinical trial.
Researchers at The University of Manchester have shown in laboratorystudies that a naturally occurring protein called IL-1ra protects braincells from injury and death.
The team, led by Professor Nancy Rothwell and Dr Pippa Tyrrell, havenow reported the results of the first small trial of IL-1ra inpatients, which are published in the Journal of Neurology andNeuropsychiatry.
"The study was designed to test if IL-1ra is safe in stroke patientsand showed promising results," said Professor Rothwell, aworld-renowned neuroscientist based in the University's Faculty of LifeSciences.
"The trial was a definite step in the right direction and may lead to a full trial to test its effectiveness next year."
Stroke is the UK's third biggest killer and the biggest cause ofdisability, affecting 100,000 people each year. It accounts for 6.5% oftotal NHS and social services expenditure and there are currently notreatments available.
Stroke occurs when vessels supplying blood to the brain become blockedand the brain is starved of oxygen. A core area of the brain dieswithin minutes but it is the threatened area around this core that thetreatment may help to salvage.
"The protein targets the molecule that causes inflammation anddramatically reduces the inflammatory markers," said ProfessorRothwell, MRC Research Professor and the University's Vice-Presidentfor Research.
"In the laboratory we were able to reduce damage to the cellsby as much as half; if we could cut cell damage in patients by even athird it would be a very significant step forward in treating stroke."
IL-1ra (interleukin-1 receptor antagonist) is the naturally occurringantagonist of the protein interleukin-1 (IL-1), which the samescientists have shown to cause damage to the brain in experimentalstroke and brain injury.
IL-1ra is currently used to manage rheumatoid arthritis but, as along-term treatment, the cost is prohibitive. With stroke, the drugwould have to be administered within the first few critical hoursthrough an infusion over a short period of time, perhaps as little asthree days.
Dr Tyrrell, who is based at Hope Hospital in Salford, added: "Stroke isa devastating condition that affects many thousand of people so thedevelopment of any effective treatment would have enormous benefits tothe patients I see and to their families.
"We still have quite a long way to go before we can be sure ifthis will be an effective treatment but the results so far are veryencouraging."
The trial was co-funded by the University, the charity Research into Ageing and the Medical Research Council.
Dr Lorna Layward, Research Manager of Research into Ageing, a specialtrust within Help the Aged, said: "This is an exciting breakthrough inwhich we're extremely proud to have played a part.
"There is a desperate need for treatment of stroke, which has a devastating impact for those affected and their families.
"While this treatment is still some way off being available to patients, it is definitely a huge step in the right direction."
Cite This Page: