The frontline treatment for someone suffering a stroke is a life-saving drug known as 'tPA' (tissue Plasminogen Activator).
If administered within a few hours of the stroke occurring, this clot busting therapy dissolves the clot causing the damage, benefiting 80 per cent of patients. That's the good news.
The flip side is that along with the clot, tPA also dissolves a protective barrier, allowing white blood cells to flood in and cause inflammation, which itself can cause severe brain damage to the patient.
Think of it as a Jekyll and Hyde drug; a good drug with a bad side.
Now, thanks to the invaluable help and long-term commitment of supporters like you, scientists at the Heart Research Institute are working on a world-first breakthrough. We have uncovered a therapy that will boost the benefits of tPA, while blocking the harmful side effects, thereby offering vastly improved protection to stroke victims.
Stroke survivor Ross Waldron was just 29 when he suffered a stroke. He was given tPA, which dissolved the clot and assured his survival... but it also triggered parallel inflammation, which was damaging in its own way. "The left side of my brain was so swollen that it pushed the right side 8 millimetres across", says Ross. "I still can't feel much on the right side of my body at all... and I still have trouble with fine motor skills in my right hand. But I'm alive, even though I can no longer follow my career as a musician."
Up until recently nobody understood why tPA had such bad side effects. While hundreds of drugs have been trialled for use in stroke, it remains the only successful clot buster that is available in the clinic. Until now.
Our Thrombosis Group has discovered how 'the dark side' of tPA operates and is developing a new blocking therapy to be given to patients alongside tPA. This would stop the blood cells from rushing in and causing the inflammation that affected Ross. If successful, this new blocking therapy will dramatically improve outcomes for patients and could even extend the window of time in which stroke patients can be treated... meaning more stroke victims would survive.
While current research results are extremely positive, it will likely take another four or five years for a large-scale clinical trial to be possible. This research underlines just how vital your long-term support is for heart research. Regular supporters provide us with the certainty and continuity needed to allow great science to flourish. Your donations allow us to plan better and find solutions faster. Our scientists simply couldn't make the breakthroughs they do without your generosity.
Thank you for everything you do to help us save lives.