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UA researchers discover promising treatment to prevent post-stroke dementia

Published: Feb. 14, 2022 at 8:57 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Right now, strokes are largely untreatable

But a group of researchers at the University of Arizona hopes to change that.

The new research comes at a time when nearly 800,000 Americans suffer a stroke each year, according to the CDC.

Experts believe a quarter of those go on to develop dementia within three to six months.

“I have been working on this for 20 years,” said Kristian Doyle an Associate Professor in Immunobiology at the UArizona College of Medicine - Tucson.

Doyle has dedicated countless hours of research to learning more about strokes so he can save lives, maybe even one day, his own.

“All of my grandparents have passed away due to stroke and we have a family history of high cholesterol,” Doyle said. “For my own parents, it’s something I worry about. For myself, it’s something I worry about.”

Doyle, the study’s principal investigator, said his team is focusing on the possibility that chronic brain inflammation as a result of a stroke can cause further neurodegeneration.

Doyle said detecting brain inflammation is tricky because it is largely invisible and can last for months.

“If that is going on for many, many months, those smoldering embers nevertheless do significant further damage,” Doyle said.

His team began to investigate cyclodextrin.

“It is approved by the Food and Drug Administration, not as a drug per see, but it is the thing you actually dissolve other drugs in,” Doyle said.

Doyle had an idea.

Instead of just using cyclodextrin to improve drug delivery, he tried using it as the drug itself and is seeing results.

Doyle said cyclodextrin is working to entrap the cholesterol in the brain, something immune cells struggle to do.

“The job appears to be overwhelming to them to a certain extent, so we are delivering a large quantity of a drug so the immune system doesn’t have to do it by itself. That led to a profound reduction in the inflammatory response to stroke,” Doyle said.

Doyle believes cyclodextrin could do even more than help prevent dementia in the months after stroke.

“In other individuals, we are hoping it would just accelerate their recovery, so they will find it easier to undergo therapy and the rewiring of the brain after stroke,” Doyle said.

This team is investigating what dose of cyclodextrin is best and tweaking the molecule to make it even more effective.

Doyle said the next step will be a clinical trial.

Their research was just published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

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