A promising new drug could be the 'Holy Grail' for stroke prevention and recovery, researchers say.
Australian clinicians from the Heart Research Institute (HRI) have made a breakthrough after 25 years of research, developing an anti-clotting drug that can promote blood flow to the brain and prevent brain injury.
Around 85 per cent of strokes are ischaemic, caused by a clot blocking blood supply to the brain. Researchers hope the new drug could lead to significant improvements in outcomes for stroke patients.
Director of cardiovascular research at HRI professor Shaun Jackson said the new drug could enhance accessibility of stroke care beyond major cities.
"Many stroke victims are never able to return to their normal life. Some are unable to work, while others end up in nursing homes, no matter their age," he said.
"We know people in rural parts of the country usually fare the worst, simply because of the time it takes to get treatment. Advance stroke care is only available in major hospitals. We think this drug can help balance the gap between rural and city health."
There is currently only a single treatment which dissolves blood clots in the acute phase of stroke, tissue plasminogen activator (tPA).
The new anti-clotting drug could improve the function of tPA, helping to dissolve the stroke-causing blood clot more effectively while stopping the clot from reforming altogether.
"The benefit of this novel anti-clotting drug is its unprecedented safety profile. Unlike aspirin and other antiplatelets on the market, its anti-clotting activity comes without the potentially devastating risk of bleeding that can lead to further brain damage and death," HRI associate professor Simone Schoenwaelder said.
Stroke is a leading cause of death and disability globally, with 16 million people suffering strokes annually.
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Researchers first discovered the potential importance of this new class of anticlotting agent in Victoria in the late 1990s.
Phase II clinical trials in 80 stroke patients in six leading hospitals across Australia will begin in coming months.