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Stroke repair: study shows a single pathway crucial for generating new stem cells, neurons and blood vessels

Pictured above: Dr. Jing Wang of the University of Ottawa and the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute

If you were to suffer a stroke, would you want your brain to create more stem cells, replace the damaged neurons or repair the broken blood vessels?

A new study led by Dr. Jing Wang shows that fine tuning a single molecular pathway may allow the brain to accomplish all three of these crucial tasks.

The study, published in Stem Cell Reports, focuses on a pathway called aPKC-CBP. Dr. Wang and her colleagues found that blocking this pathway early after a stroke can stimulate pericytes (which wrap around blood vessels in the brain) to become stem cells.

But if you permanently block the pathway, it prevents the stem cells from becoming neurons and exhausts the pericytes so they can’t help with blood vessel repair during the chronic phase after a stroke. The paper thus suggests that the aPKC-CBP pathway may need to be blocked at the early phase of a stroke, then reactivated during the chronic phase of a stroke to get the optimal mix of cells for stroke repair and functional recovery. While this research was done in laboratory models, compounds that target the aPKC-CBP pathway are already being tested in human clinical trials for other conditions.

Authors: Gouveia A, Seegobin M, Kannangara TS, He L, Wondisford F, Comin CH, Costa LDF, Béïque JC, Lagace DC, Lacoste B, Wang J.

Funding: This research was possible because of generous donations to The Ottawa Hospital for Regenerative Medicine research. The researchers also received support from the J.P. Bickell Foundation, the Heart and Stroke Foundation (HSF), the HSF Canadian Partnership for Stroke Recovery and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

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