Hi1a protein might be a potential treatment for stroke

A team of researchers headed by Professor Glenn King from The University of Queensland has identified a small protein that shows promise in reducing brain damage after a stroke.

The protein, called Hi1a, is found in spider venom. The researchers demonstrate that this protein is highly neuroprotective in a focal model of ischemic stroke. The findings of the study have been published online before print in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

A stroke happens when blood flow to the brain stops or reduces, depriving brain tissue of oxygen and nutrients. Within minutes, brain cells begin to die and the injured brain region stops working. Stroke is one of the most common causes of death, and a major cause of serious disability for adults. According to estimates, 6 million people die from stroke annually and 5 million survivors are left with a permanent disability. However, effective treatment for stroke is limited.

In this study, King and colleagues conducted a series of studies on rats to test the effect of Hi1a on stroke. They found that a single dose of Hi1a protected neurons from induced strokes. Specifically, the protein works by blocking an iron channel in cells -- acid-sensing ion channel 1a (ASIC1a). ASIC1a is a key component involved in neuronal damage after stroke. Previous studies have shown that knocking out ASIC1a significantly reduces neuronal death following ischemic stroke in mice.

King's team demonstrated that administering Hi1a two hours after stroke reduced brain damage in rats by 80%, and that administering Hi1a eight hours after stroke reduced brain damage by 65%. Rats receiving the protein had better neurological performance compared to the untreated animals. In summary, the study showed that the protein Hi1a might be a new stroke treatment.
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