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Salamanca scientists find genetic predictor of stroke patient recovery
By thinkSPAIN Team Tue, Nov 8, 2016
RESEARCHERS in Spain have discovered two different types of brain chemical which determine whether or not stroke patients are likely to recover well from their ordeal.
The protein p53-Prolina, when present, means patients who suffer a haemorrhagic stroke – where a blood vessel breaks in the brain, as opposed to a cerebral infarction where the blood flow to the brain stops – have a better prognosis of functional recovery, since this chemical has a greater ability to repair vascular damage.
By contrast, the protein p53-Arginina is associated with a very poor outlook, and speeds up death of neurons following a stroke.
This discovery was made by the Molecular Neurobiology Group, part of the Salamanca Institute of Biomedical Research (IBSAL), through in vitro studies on animals which carry a variation of the gene very close to that seen in humans, and which is thought to be possible to extrapolate to human patients.
Scientists studied a known polymorphism in the human Tp53 gene, a one-off mutation of the DNA found in a high proportion of the population, and found differing levels of the two types of p53 protein within it.
Dr Ángeles Almeida, leading the investigation team, says a haemorrhagic stroke is the type which carries the highest mortality rate – some 50% of patients do not survive beyond a month after suffering one, and those who do live for any length of time afterwards face a very high risk of permanent damage as a result.
A haemorrhagic stroke survivor is very likely to suffer some degree of disability or another due to the damage caused to the brain – in fact, 20% of those who live to tell the tale are entirely dependent upon carers within six months.
At present, says Dr Almeida, there is no specific medical treatment available, and the few techniques used are only effective for a small percentage of survivors, at huge cost to the health service.
And the prognosis for survivors of this type of intra-cerebral haemorrhage is 'somewhat unpredictable', she explains, since two people with identical damage to the brain as a result may evolve very differently to each other.
In conclusion, says Dr Almeida – whose team's findings have been published in the magazine Cell death and differentiation in the section Nature – recovery in patients of this type of stroke is 'determined by their genotype'.
At worst, the findings might allow doctors to predict the likely outcome for survivors, and in the future it could lead the way for targeted drug treatment for those with higher levels of p53-Arginina and lower levels of p53-Prolina.
Photograph: A molecular biology research laboratory
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