Cause of brain cell damage in strokes identified

March 28th, 2008 - 11:12 am ICT by admin  

New York, March 28 (IANS) Researchers have identified a key player in the destruction of brain cells after a stroke or a seizure. A protein called asparagine endopeptidase (AEP) unleashes enzymes that break down brain cells’ DNA, says the study that holds out hope of a treatment path.

Finding drugs that block AEP may help doctors limit permanent brain damage following strokes or seizures, according to the researchers.

The results of the study have been published in the latest issue of the journal Molecular Cell.

When a stroke obstructs blood flow to a part of the brain, the lack of oxygen causes a build-up of lactic acid, the same chemical that appears in muscles during intense exercise.

In addition, a flood of chemicals that brain cells use to communicate with one another hyper excites them. Epileptic seizures can have similar effects.

While some brain cells die directly because of lack of oxygen, others undergo programmed cell death, a normal developmental process where cells actively destroy their own DNA.

“The question arises, how do the acidic conditions trigger DNA damage?” asked K. Ye of Emory University.

The surprising answer was AEP, though no one had previously suspected it of involvement in this process.

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