An Oxford University research group has discovered a built-in neuroprotectant that allows the brain to protect itself from the effects of stroke. Until their find, researchers searched for and failed to produce drugs that would prevent the blood clots and subsequent death of brain cells associated with stroke.
The research group based their study on observations of brain activity made in 1926; endogenous mechanisms in certain areas of the hippocampus prevented the death of brain cells deprived of oxygen and glucose while cells in other areas of the hippocampus died. The Oxford research group found that cells in the surviving areas of the hippocampus produced the protein hamartin, while the dead areas of the hippocampus did not.
The researchers proved hamartin was related to survival of brain cells and identified the mechanism by which hamartin protects the cells. The results of the research may allow the synthesis of drugs that act as neuroprotectants for victims of stroke and diseases that kill brain cells.
Papadakis M, Hadley G, et al. Tsc1 (hamartin) confers neuroprotection against ischemia by inducing autophagy. Nature Medicine. (February 2013).