'Huge therapeutic potential': University of Sask. researchers make progress on stroke treament

A drug typically used to treat schizophrenia is showing positive signs during early stages of research, bringing down stroke-related swelling in the brain.

The research is being conducted by the researchers from the University of Saskatchewan, Columbia University, and the University of Oxford with help from the Canadian Light Source involves a drug called trifluoperazine (TFP).

TFP is already approved for human use and researchers believe it has the potential to stop swelling in the brain that occurs after a stroke or cerebral injury.

According to a release from the CLS, TFP acts on “doughnut-shaped” water channel proteins called aquaporins, which are in brain cells.

During a stroke, the blood supply to the brain is restricted and prevents cells from receiving enough oxygen, which leads to swelling in the brain as oxygen-starved cells cannot do their usual job of maintaining a balance of fluid, nutrients, and electrolytes.

“Water rushes from the outside through these doughnut-shaped proteins, into the cells that then swell. The build-up of pressure damages the fragile brain tissue, disturbing the flow of electrical signals from the brain to the body,” Dr. Mootaz Salman, Research Scientist in the Department of Physiology, Anatomy, and Genetics at the University of Oxford and the corresponding author on this studysaid in a release.

“Edema, which is swelling due to water or other body fluid accumulation, is the hallmark of stroke and plays a major role in stroke-associated morbidity and mortality.”

The idea is that TFP stops all of this from happening by preventing a signal that would normally cause more aquaporin channels to rise to the surface of brain cells.

“Our novel approach offers new hope for patients with central nervous system injuries and strokes and has a huge therapeutic potential,” Dr. Salman said in the release.

“These findings suggest it could be a good candidate for early phase of human clinical application at a low treatment cost in the near future.”

Dr. Patrice Lindsay, Director of Health Systems Change at the Heart and Stroke Foundation said that any research done to further the medical communities knowledge on strokes is crucial.

“Any new research that’s coming out that shows promise at reducing the impact of stroke, reducing the damage that could be caused, is very exciting, and things we will be watching very closely. We need more research like this,” Dr. Lindsay said.

Dr. Lindsay said international partnerships are important for the field, combining expertise and resources goes a long way to further the study as a community.

“We’re encouraging those international partnerships. Rather than duplicating each other’s work, to work together and leverage, and you can get so much further ahead so much faster. These partnerships are so exciting and a great example for others to follow,” Dr. Lindsay said.

As TFP is already approved for human use, Dr. Lindsay said the process to vigorously test the drug will be a bit quicker, meaning it could potentially be helping patients sooner than if it was a brand new drug.

“We will continue to monitor very closely as this research evolves. When the evidence is substantial enough we can try to quickly move it into practice so it can help as many patients as possible,” Dr. Lindsay told CTV.