Public Release: 

New drug stops stroke damage to brain

Injection has potential to prevent brain damage in majority of human stroke patients

University of Toronto

(Toronto, October 24, 2002) - A team of researchers has developed a promising new drug that, when given to animals, immediately stops brain damage caused by stroke. Encouraged by this discovery, researchers at Toronto Western Hospital, The Hospital for Sick Children, University of Toronto and University of British Columbia are hopeful that with further investigation, this same drug will serve as an effective treatment for people who experience a stroke.

In a new study, published in the October 25 issue of the scientific journal Science, researchers reveal that the drug, when administered to rats either before or within one hour after the onset of stroke symptoms, stopped the damage that occurs during a stroke.

According to the co-principal investigator, Dr. Michael Tymianski, senior scientist in the Toronto Western Hospital Research Institute, "To date, we have not encountered any adverse long-term effects of the drug, and all our data show that the drug is more effective in preventing stroke than any method that has every been used in animals or humans."

Dr. Tymianski, an associate professor in the Departments of Surgery (Neurosurgery) and Physiology at the University of Toronto, cautions that it may be some time before human trials begin. "At this stage, we still need to determine the long-term effects of the drug. We could see this research used in human trials within the next few years."

"The drug works by preventing the negative consequences of the over stimulation of the NMDA receptors in the brain that are involved in strokes. However, it doesn't block the normal important functions of these receptors, making this a possible practical stroke therapy," said Dr. Michael Salter, co-principal investigator of this study, a senior scientist at The Hospital for Sick Children, and a professor of Physiology at the University of Toronto.

The drug was developed by Dr. Tymianski in collaboration with Dr. Salter, Dr. Yu Tian Wang, professor and HHMI International Scholar, chair in Stroke Research, Brain Research Centre and Department of Medicine, Vancouver Hospital and University of British Columbia , and Dr. James Gurd, professor of biochemistry at the University of Toronto at Scarborough.

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This research was supported in part by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the Canadian Stroke Network, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario.

Toronto Western Hospital is a member of the University Health Network (UHN). Building on the strengths and reputation of each of our three remarkable hospitals; Toronto General Hospital, Toronto Western Hospital and Princess Margaret Hospital, UHN brings together the talent and resources needed to achieve global impact and provide exemplary patient care. For more information please visit www.uhn.ca .

The Hospital for Sick Children, affiliated with the University of Toronto, is Canada's most research-intensive hospital and the largest centre dedicated to improving children's health in the country. Its mission is to provide the best in family-centred, compassionate care, to lead in scientific and clinical advancement, and to prepare the next generation of leaders in child health. For more information, please visit www.sickkids.ca.

The University of Toronto, Canada's leading research university with 60,000 students, is celebrating its 175th anniversary in 2002. On March 15, 1827, King's College - precursor to the University of Toronto - was granted its royal charter by King George IV. The university now comprises 31 divisions, colleges and faculties on three campuses, including 14 professional faculties, numerous research centres and Canada's largest university library system - the fifth largest research library in North America. For more information, please visit www.utoronto.ca. University of British Columbia researchers, who conduct more than 4,000 investigations annually, attracted $260 million in research funding in 2001/2002. For more information , visit the website at www.ubc.ca.

For more information:

University Health Network
Gillian Judkins
416-340-4800, ext. 3304

The Hospital for Sick Children
Laura Greer
416-813-5046

University of Toronto
Janet Wong
416-978-5949

University of British Columbia
Hilary Thomson
604-822-2644

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