Squirrels might be nature’s best-kept secret when it comes to finding a more effective treatment for stroke victims, according to a new study.
Researchers from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) have suggested that a biological event that happens in squirrels during hibernation could be transferred over to humans who have experienced a stroke.
They say that a protective process occurs in a squirrel’s cells which allows its brain to function with reduced blood flow and oxygen.
When a human brain is cut off from oxygen, known as a stroke, cells in the brain begin to die. Current treatments involve doctors attempting to remove the blockage as quickly as possible.
Author Joshua Bernstock, of NINDS, said: “If we could only turn on the process hibernators appear to use to protect their brains, we could help protect the brain during a stroke and ultimately help people recover.”
Dr Francesca Bosetti, program director at NINDS, added: “For decades scientists have been searching for an effective brain-protecting stroke therapy to no avail.
“If the compound identified in this study successfully reduces tissue death and improves recovery in further experiments, it could lead to new approaches for preserving brain cells after an ischemic stroke.”
Last year, doctors recorded around 150,000 instances of stroke in the UK. It is the fourth single largest cause of death in the UK and second in the world.