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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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Nominations for 2019 RSPCA Honours Awards now open

News Story 1
 People across the UK are being urged to nominate a standout animal champion for the 2019 RSPCA Honours Awards.

The awards recognise those who have worked tirelessly to improve animal welfare, campaigned on behalf of animals, or shown true bravery. Previous winners include comedian John Bishop, who was awarded Celebrity Animal Champion of the Year, and 11-year-old Lobby Cantwell, who raised more than £1,000 for the charity through mountain climbs and bike rides.

To submit a nomination or find out more about the awards visit the RSPCA website. Nominations will remain open until 4 pm on Friday, March 15.  

Click here for more...
News Shorts
New £1m project to investigate dairy cow lameness

Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) is leading a new £1 million research project to investigate the causes of lameness in dairy cows.

One in three dairy cows are affected by lameness every day in the UK, costing the industry an estimated £250 milion annually.

The project will take three years to complete and is due to finish by November 2021.

Professor Georgios Banos of SRUC commented: “In addition to pain and discomfort to the animal, lameness is associated with decreased milk production and inflated farm costs.

“Among cows raised in the same environment, some become lame while others do not. Understanding the reasons behind this will help us develop targeted preventive practices contributing to enhanced animal welfare and farm profitability.”