NATIONAL - After a stroke, time is your enemy. Hours may pass before symptoms are recognized, reducing the chance doctors can use clot-busting drugs.
Neurologist Justin Sattin says, "They call their physicians, they call their family members, and by the time they show up in an emergency room somewhere, that window is often closed."
Clot-busting therapy has to start in the first three hours. But a new technology, called NeuroThera, may save brain cells up to 24-hours after a stroke. Dr. Sattin says, "The hypothesis is that surrounding that core of irreversibly injured tissue is what we call a penumbra of tissue that's at risk of dying, but is still salvageable."
The treatment works like this: a cap is slipped on the head, then near-infrared light is exposed to 20 areas of the scalp.
Dr. Sattin says, "The idea is to illuminate the entire brain so that the area of injury can be accessed from, from all sides."
Near-infrared light is the key. It activates the mitochondria, the power plants of cells, to produce a chemical critical to life. Dr. Sattin says, "It turns out that if you shine this near-infrared light on the mitochondria of the cells that it increases the production of ATP."
By producing ATP, the stunned cells in the vicinity of the stroke have energy to function. Dr. Sattin says, "The goal is to protect the brain cells from dying, or perhaps even to promote their regeneration."
While NeuroThera is promising, it is still under clinical study at more than 40 sites in the US.
Doctor Sattin says the most important message is for people to seek medical attention as soon as possible after having a stroke, because early treatment is the key.
For information about the NeuroThera® system:
For information about the trial, go to http://www.clinicaltrials.gov. Then type the trial identification number in the search box: nct00419705.