Oxygen Deprived Brains Repaired and Saved

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Protecting Brain

Scientists from Melbourne's Howard Florey Institute have found special proteins that protect the brain after it has been damaged by a lack of oxygen, which occurs in conditions such as stroke, perinatal asphyxia, near-drowning and traumatic brain injury.

Dr Nicole Jones and her team discovered that during oxygen deprivation, or 'hypoxia', these proteins (HIF1А and PHD2) increase.

These proteins regulate processes like the production of red blood cells and new blood vessels, and the flow of glucose to the brain. Therefore they are involved in preventing further brain damage and repairing damage caused by the initial injury.

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This discovery takes the Howard Florey Institute's scientists closer to developing preventative and regenerative treatments for brain damage caused by hypoxia.

Dr Jones said her discovery resulted from looking at how the body tries to protect itself and how the brain reacts when it experiences mild, non-damaging hypoxia.

"I found that mild, non-damaging hypoxia actually protected the brain against a subsequent injury by activating certain proteins," Dr Jones said.

"Mild hypoxia appears to pre-condition neural tissues against a mass 'suicide' of healthy neurons after a stroke or other brain trauma.

"In an experiment in rats, mild hypoxia followed by a major stroke resulted in less brain damage than if the rat experienced just a major stroke

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