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Memorial U. researchers launch post-stroke search-and-rescue mission

St. JOHN’S, NL _ Newfoundlanders know a lot about search and rescue. This beautiful east-coast island has had its share of daring seaside survival stories.

And now CPSR researchers at Memorial University of Newfoundland are working hard to bring that grit and determination to stroke recovery research by looking at ways to rescue brain cells and tissue in the stormy aftermath of a stroke.

“We want to find out how to rescue existing brain tissue before it’s too late,” says Dr. Jacqueline Vanderluit, Associate Professor of Neurosciences. “If we can put more tools in the hands of the clinicians, we can get better outcomes and people can have better lives following stroke.”

In the Vanderluit lab, researchers study blood flow in mouse brains after stroke and examine different cell types to see how they respond to big and small strokes.

“The goal is to find ways to manipulate the cells in order to develop new therapies to rescue brain tissue,” doctoral student Kathleen Fifield says. “If we can find other areas to explore by examining dysfunction at the cellular level, we can determine the critical time point for interventions like neuroprotective drugs.”

Identifying new drug targets for stroke is important because existing treatments have limited time windows and not all patients are eligible.

Dr. Vanderluit and her team are also looking at the impact of a high-fat diet and obesity on the size and severity of stroke. Obesity creates an inflammatory response in the body that can worsen stroke outcomes, and obesity rates are high in Newfoundland.

“We are looking at the impact of a very small stroke in obese animals and specifically in the first 48 hours,” Dr. Vanderluit says. “We want to find new targets to promote survival of brain tissue.”

Finding new and effective treatments to save cells, repair damage, and promote stroke recovery could be one of Newfoundland’s greatest search-and-rescue stories yet.

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