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Brain’s Mechanism in Fighting Strokes Revealed

Update Date: Feb 25, 2013 02:33 PM EST

Although doctors and scientists have known that certain brain cells can protect the brain from a stroke, the mechanisms behind that process were unknown until now. For 85 years, scientists knew that certain cells could survive without oxygen and thus, they protected the brain during a stroke. Scientists have studied the stroke shielding abilities of some brain cells and revealed how cells react when prompted to survive. The study was published in the journal, Natural Medicine, and it explains the mechanisms that help certain cells survive during an unexpected attack. 

The researchers performed several experiments on rats in which the rats' brains and cell activities were monitored. The researchers found that the production of a protein called hamartin, which causes cells to conserve energy, was caused by the cells that survived without oxygen. Once the cells were told to conserve energy, they stopped making new proteins and started to break down the present ones in order to access raw materials. This allowed the cells to continue to survive under the circumstances. Based from this finding, researchers stopped the production of hamartin and found that the cells were rendered unable to protect themselves and died.

"We have shown for the first time that the brain has mechanisms that it can use to protect itself and keep brain cells alive," Researcher professor Alastair Buchan from Oxford University stated.

The study did not find a reason for why certain cells survived where as others died. It did find that cells that died are known as CA1 cells involved with memory and cells that survived are known as CA3 cells. The researchers hope that their findings can help with future research aimed in preventing the death of brain cells during strokes. Professor Buchan theorized that if hamartin can successfully be injected in the cells that die, the protein can help prevent the cells from dying. In the meantime, the researchers acknowledge that this is only the beginning of what can be huge improvements in dealing with brain diseases and strokes. 

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