Protein protects rat brains from strokes

A protein related to oxygen-carrying hemoglobin in blood cells may protect the brain during strokes.

BRAIN SHIELD. A rat with extra neuroglobin in its brain (top) suffers less tissue damage (outlined areas) after a stroke than a typical rat (bottom) does. Y. Sun et al./PNAS

Scientists discovered the hemoglobin cousin several years ago and dubbed it neuroglobin because only nerve cells in the brain of vertebrates make it.

Seeking to uncover neuroglobin’s role, David A. Greenberg of the Buck Institute for Age Research in Novato, Calif., and his colleagues recently induced strokes in rats whose brains had been injected with viruses genetically engineered to churn out the protein. The amount of brain tissue damaged by the strokes was significantly less in those animals than in rats not given the virus, or in rats whose brains had less-than-normal amounts of neuroglobin, the investigators report in the March 18 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Greenberg and his colleagues conclude that neuroglobin naturally protects brain cells faced with too little oxygen. They speculate that drugs that increase the production of neuroglobin could become a new stroke therapy.


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