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Ground squirrels shed light on new stroke treatments
Blood flow to the brain is dramatically reduced in ground squirrels during hibernation.
Molecule could help to protect brain cells in human stroke patients

Scientists say they have identified a potential drug that could protect the brains of ischemic stroke patients, by mimicking a cellular process that takes place in ground squirrels during hibernation.

Blood flow to the brain is dramatically reduced in ground squirrels during hibernation, yet they emerge from it without any ill effects.

In humans, ischemic strokes occur when a clot cuts off the blood flow to part of the brain, depriving cells of oxygen and nutrients such as blood sugar glucose.

Currently, the only way to limit cell death is to remove the clot as quickly as possible. Treatments to help brain cells to survive oxygen and glucose deprivation could dramatically improve outcomes for patients.

Researchers recently discovered that a cellular process known as SUMOylation goes into overdrive in a certain species of ground squirrel during hibernation. Further study confirmed the suspicion that this is how the animals’ brains can survive reduced blood flow during hibernation.

“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,” said lead author Joshua Bernstock.

Francesca Bosetti, programme director at NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, 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.”

Scientists now plan to test whether the compound, ebselen, can protect the brains of animal models of stroke.

The findings have been publishing in the FASEB journal.

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Newborn okapi named after Meghan Markle

News Story 1
 An endangered okapi recently born at London Zoo has been named Meghan - after Prince Harry’s fiancé Meghan Markle - in celebration of the upcoming royal wedding. Okapis are classed as endangered in the wild, having suffered ongoing declines since 1995. Zookeeper Gemma Metcalf said: “We’re very pleased with how mother and baby are doing. Oni is being very attentive, making sure she regularly licks her clean and keeping a watchful eye over Meghan as she sleeps.” Image © ZSL London Zoo  

News Shorts
Ten new cases of Alabama rot confirmed

Anderson Moores Veterinary Specialists has confirmed 10 new cases of Alabama rot, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the UK to 122.

In a Facebook post, the referral centre said the cases were from County Durham, West Yorkshire, Greater Manchester, Staffordshire, Sussex, West Somerset, Devon, and Powys.

Pet owners are urged to remain vigilant and seek advice from their vet if their dog develops unexplained skin lesions/sores.