One of the Perron Institute’s research teams has made a series of discoveries which may help to minimise the damage that a stroke can cause.

Researchers in the Stroke Research Group at the WA Neuroscience Research Institute (the Perron Institute) – supported by Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital (SCGH) and the Neurotrauma Research Program – have discovered that certain peptides are highly neuroprotective and can limit brain damage after a stroke. Peptides are small chains of amino acids and the building blocks of protein.

Adjunct Associate Professor Bruno Meloni and Clinical Professor Neville Knuckey (who is also Head of Neurosurgery at SCGH) led the the Perron Institute research team behind these findings. They believe these are particularly exciting discoveries as there are currently no neuroprotective treatments available after a stroke.
“It’s an area that many researchers are no longer pursuing as everything has failed to date,” said Adjunct Associate Professor Bruno Meloni, adding “some have lost hope that neuroprotection of this kind will ever become available.

“We have a different view and believe there is immense value in pursuing these significant new findings. While some of the brain injury occurs within minutes of a stroke occurring, which is obviously difficult to prevent, there is still the opportunity to minimise ongoing damaging processes which persist several hours and even days after a stroke.”

The findings from the WA Neuroscience Research Institute have the potential to provide stroke victims with benefits that both complement and differ from the recently reported* new stroke treatment being trialled involving improved blood supply to the brain.

The Perron Institute’s Stroke Research Group began researching the neuroprotective properties of poly-arginine peptides in 2012 and recently completed their first lab-based animal stroke study with one of the peptides (R9) securing highly promising results. Complete findings from this study were published in last week’s online edition of the Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism. This study showed how a particular peptide can reduce brain injury when administered 30 minutes after the onset of a stroke. Even more recent studies are returning similarly positive results when treatment is given one hour after a stroke. (Future trials will look to extend this timing even further).

“Results for new therapeutic compounds like these don’t come along very often, so we’re feeling very hopeful that we may have discovered a potential treatment to improve a patient’s quality of life after a stroke” said Associate Professor Meloni.

The commercial development of the peptides is currently being explored with help from the University of Western Australia, and Associate Professor Meloni is confident the team will secure additional funding this year to examine how these peptides perform within other conditions. Conditions such as spinal cord injury and other forms of brain ischemia (eg. cardiac arrest, traumatic brain injury, perinatal hypoxic-ischemia).

Clinical Professor David Blacker, the Perron Institute’s Medical Director and a neurologist and stroke physician at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, said the impact of stroke and the limited treatments currently available to sufferers makes these findings even more compelling. “These promising discoveries by Professors Meloni and Knuckey offer welcome news in the challenging field of stroke research” said Professor Blacker. “We need to see more investment in research like this as the prevalence of stroke within our community continues to rise.”

Professor Blacker said the WA Neuroscience Research Institute is currently expanding its research and treatment programs so that more can be done to help combat the devastating effects of stroke on patients and their families. He added the institute is particularly well-placed to quickly translate the work that scientists such as Professor Meloni are doing into human trials through its access to a high volume stroke unit at SCGH, which has an established record in clinical research.

The National Stroke Foundation estimates that the number of people having a stroke in Australia will rise from 50,000 a year to more than 130,000 by 2050.
* Within the New England Journal of Medicine.