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UVic researchers find light could be key to speedier stroke recovery

Last Updated Jun 23, 2017 at 8:03 pm PDT

Summary

Researchers from UVic have found light improved brain circuits damaged by stroke

There are more than 50,000 strokes in Canada every year

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130)- Researchers at the University of Victoria are providing new clues about how to speed up recovery after a stroke.

Stroke is the leading cause of disability among adults in Canada and the third leading cause of death, killing 14,000 people annually. There are more than 50,000 strokes in Canada every year.

Having a stroke disrupts brain circuits that are crucial for sensation and movement.

Neuroscientist Craig Brown says to make those circuits work again in stroke-affected mice, a team at UVic has forced them to express an algae protein.

“We made the cells that survive a stroke express this algae protein that responds to light. Then we started shining light directly onto these brain cells for up to six weeks after a stroke,” he says.

“We did a whole lot of tests. The moral of the story is the mice that got the light stimulation, that directly had their brain cells after a stroke, better recovered the use of their paw.”

“The mice got progressively better and better at using their stroke-affected paw.”

Other studies are using the same approach in research into Parkinson’s disease and to reduce chronic pain. But Brown says it’s early days for the stroke research.

“It’s sort of a first step in trying to think of new ways to improve the brain’s function after a stroke.”

Brown says most of the work on this study was done by Dr Kelly Tennant.

The study results were published June 23 in Nature Communications.