California scientists have found that a protein, which occurs naturally in the body, might reduce brain damage caused by a stroke.

Stroke is the world’s second leading killer, responsible for almost 10 percent of all deaths worldwide in 2005, according to the World Health Organization.  Eighty five percent of those deaths occur in low and middle income countries and one-third strike people under 70.

Stroke is also the leading cause of serious disability among adults.

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted, usually due to a burst blood vessel or a clot.  When that happens, the supply of oxygen and nutrients is cut off, causing damage to the brain tissue.

Time is critical for stroke victims. The longer blood flow is cut off to the brain, the greater the damage.   The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke says  immediate treatment can save  lives and enhance chances for a successful recovery.

This recent discovery by scientists at Stanford University School of Medicine might just give stroke victims that much-needed time to treat their illness.

The team found that alpha-B-crystallin — a naturally-occurring substance which is a major structural protein in the eye’s lens — shrank stroke-induced lesions in the brains of experimental mice — even when administered as much as 12 hours after the event.

The protein acts as a brake on the immune system by lowering inflammation, which can be responsible for substantial brain damage beyond what’s caused by the initial stroke.  Alpha-B-crystallin acts like a mop; sopping up those bad chemicals and stopping inflammation from making a bad situation worse.

If further studies confirm and expand upon the Stanford findings, members of the research team say that alpha-B-crystallin may then be an excellent candidate for clinical trials in stroke.

This weekend on the “Science World” radio program, Dr. Lawrence Steinman, MD, a senior author of the study, tells us more about the promising findings and how they might impact future stroke victims.

Listen to the interview here…

[audio://|titles=Dr. L. Steinman – Discovery Could Lead to More Time For Stroke Treatment]

Watch video… What Happens During A Stroke – From a Survivors Perspective…

Other stories we cover on the “Science World” radio program this week include: