Medical Minute 6-17: Stopping the Stroke Damage

By: Vanessa Welch Email
By: Vanessa Welch Email

50-year-old David Adams used to run a restaurant. Then, five years ago, he had a stroke. His life changed in an instant.

"I mean, bam!"

Thanks to years of therapy, David's gotten his independence, and some skills back.

"Reading, writing, talking, driving."

While David and countless others face the daily challenges of life after stroke, LSU researchers have been looking for a way to stop the damage.

"The inside of this region is the one that would be affected by a stroke."

The answer came from a surprising place.

"DHA, which is a very important component of fish oil."

A team led by LSU Neuroscientist Doctor Nicolas Bazan discovered that one injection of DHA can protect the brain for up to five hours after a stroke and stop the damage.

"In fact, it does both: protection and reversion of cells that are in the process of being severely injured," said Nicolas Bazan, M.D., Ph.D.,
Neuroscientist at LSU Health Sciences Ctr.

In these experimental models, the red area is the stroke damage without DHA. In the brain with DHA --much less damage. And the injured area continues to shrink from the first day to the seventh.

"This could be the way to protect and minimize the terrible consequences of stroke."

It's still early, but some are calling it a breakthrough. David calls it something else.

"Beautiful, I mean beautiful."

For more information on other series produced by Ivanhoe Broadcast News contact John Cherry at (407) 691-1500,


BACKGROUND: Every 40 seconds, someone in United States suffers a stroke, and every three to four minutes, someone dies from one. The most common type of stroke is ischemic stroke. Ischemic strokes occur when a blood vessel supplying the brain becomes blocked. This causes significant tissue damage and can affect the tissue surrounding the core known as the penumbra. When injured, the penumbra has a limited lifespan of just a few hours in which blood flow needs to be reestablished and therapy administered to avoid irreversible damage. Ischemic strokes account for 87 percent of all strokes and up to 70 percent of strokes seen in hospitals.

STANDARD TREATMENT: The treatment a stroke patient receives depends on the severity of the stroke. If a stroke victim is diagnosed soon enough after the symptoms start, they may be given a clot-dissolving medicine known as tissue plasminogen activator (t-PA). The drug can increase the patient’s chances of survival and recovery. However, the drug is not safe for everyone. The stroke victim may also be given an aspirin or an aspirin in combination with other medicine. Other medicines are often given to control blood sugar levels, fever, and seizures.

NEW TREATMENT? New research on acute ischemic strokes shows that Docosahexaenoic acid (or DHA), an essential Omega-3 fatty acid, can be used to protect brain tissue. DHA can promote the recovery of brain function even when administered up to five hours after the stroke has occurred. Dr. Nicolas Bazan, at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, led the study on DHA and its effectiveness in stroke treatment.

DHA treatment has already proved to be beneficial for patients with coronary heart disease, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer and age-related macular degeneration. This is the first time its potential for stroke has been explored. Dr. Bazan and his team found that DHA treatment is not only able to salvage brain tissue that would have rotted, but its use also renders some of the affected areas indistinguishable from normal tissue within seven days.
(SOURCE: Medschool.lsu)

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

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