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'Bad' enzymes may wear white hats after stroke

Enzymes that can harm the brain immediately after a stroke may actually be beneficial days later, according to new research. Insights from the study could change the way stroke is treated, extending the window for effective treatment from a couple of hours to a couple of weeks. The results may suggest new ideas for drug development.

Working with rats, a team from the Harvard Medical School Departments of Radiology and Neurology found that the enzyme matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9) may help remodel brain tissue seven to 14 days after a stroke. Their findings are published in the April 2006 issue of Nature Medicine, and were made available in an advance online publication on March 26, 2006.

Matrix metalloproteinases are a large group of enzymes that help break down the extracellular matrix, a complex structure that surrounds and supports cells. Newer research is showing that MMPs may also contribute to blood vessel growth, as well as the death, proliferation, differentiation, and movement of cells.

Sophia Wang, who was a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) medical student fellow at Harvard Medical School, is second author of the article. She was deeply involved with the study's data analysis, and established a way to quantify the response of proteins involved in the cell growth and blood vessel remodeling that occurs after stroke. She also assisted with behavioral studies of rats that had received MMPs to see how well they recovered after a stroke.

HHMI medical student fellows are medical students who are interested in biomedical research. The fellowships support a year of research, usually between the second and third years of medical school. The program is designed to encourage medical students to become physician-scientists.

Just after a stroke--a temporary loss of blood to the brain caused by a clot or burst blood vessel--MMPs chew up damaged brain tissue. This increases the risk of swelling and hemorrhage in the brai
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Source:Howard Hughes Medical Institute


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