Preventing flooding of the brain

30.05.2007
Researchers from the Nordic Centre of Excellence on Molecular Medicine have discovered how the brain swells after a stroke or head trauma. This opens up completely new ways to treat such patients. “You can block the water with medicine, and we have several substances that look promising” says Professor Ole Petter Ottersen, co-ordinator of WIRED.
The development of efficient therapies for this condition has been hampered by a lack of information regarding the route of water flow into the brain. But animal experiments carried out by researchers from the NordForsk-financed Nordic Centre of Excellence on Water Imbalance Related Disorders (WIRED) have singled out the water channel called aquaporin-4 as the carrier of water from the blood and into the brain. The Centre is one of three under the umbrella project Nordic Centre of Excellence on Molecular Medicine.

The discovery has opened up new possibilities for treating stroke and head trauma victims. “You can block the water with medicine, and we have several substances that look promising” says Professor Ole Petter Ottersen, co-ordinator of WIRED. The results were presented at an project conference in Copenhagen on 29 May 2007.

Stroke affects almost 100 000 patients each year in the Nordic countries. Improved ways to treat these patients will considerably reduce the human suffering and economic costs associated with this condition. However, there is still some time to go before the treatment can be transferred to humans. Professor Ottersen estimates that developing a drug will take 10-15 years.

However, knowledge of water transport and water channels in the human body is not only relevant to stroke patients. Such knowledge could also help improve the treatment of patients with kidney disease and might in the future lead to new therapies for patients with migraine. More than 10% of the Nordic population is affected by migraine, and researchers believe that the condition is associated with a perturbation of water transport.

The impressive research results achieved by WIRED were made possible by the unique environment that the Nordic countries offer for research in the field of molecular medicines. Assets include extensive and reliable patient and epidemiological registries, biobanks, uniform high level health care systems, as well as a strong tradition in genetic and biomedical research.


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