Now this is neat! We’re often told how fragile brain cells are, which makes stroke and other oxygen depreciation stresses so dangerous. There might be some defense mechanisms in place:
It has been known for more than 85 years that some brain cells could withstand being starved of oxygen.
Scientists, writing in the journal Nature Medicine, have shown how these cells switch into survival mode.
They hope to one-day find a drug which uses the same trick to protect the whole brain…Experiments on rats showed that these surviving-cells started producing a protein called hamartin – which forces cells to conserve energy. They stop producing new proteins and break down existing ones to access the raw materials.
When the researchers prevented the cells from producing hamartin, they died just like other cells.
Prof Buchan said: “We have shown for the first time that the brain has mechanisms that it can use to protect itself and keep brain cells alive.”
Their aim is to develop a drug that can produce the same effect, which could be given when an ambulance arrived. This would buy the brain time until clot-busting drugs could be given in hospital.