Scientists have developed an unusual vaccine that prevents some strokes in laboratory rats. The treatment works by desensitizing the animals' immune system to a protein residing within their blood vessels.
When displayed on a blood vessel's lining, the protein, called E-Selectin, facilitates the binding of white blood cells to the vessel wall and elicits an inflammatory reaction that can lead to a stroke. By continually exposing rats to human E-Selectin using a nasal spray, researchers short-circuited that inflammatory process.
The researchers tested the nasal vaccine in rats bred to have high blood pressure and hence an elevated risk of stroke. Rats receiving repeated doses of the nasal spray over their lifetime remained significantly less susceptible to stroke than were rats getting sprays containing saline mist or an innocuous chicken protein.