New Treatments for Stroke Rehabilitation

Stroke rehabilitation is a recovery method that has been used for decades to help stroke patients. After a stroke, the affected part of the brain may stop working. Speech, movement or co-ordination may prove difficult. This is where rehabilitation kicks in.

With the help of specialists, one re-learns how to perform basic tasks depending on the nature and degree of the stroke. Your doctor will assess how long you need the therapy sessions to last plus the intensity of the activities to undertake.

With the rise in technology, there have been new treatment methods to help in stroke rehabilitation. This article will discuss Vagus Nerve Stimulation, retraining the brain and a new drug that can help during therapy. 

This nerve stimulation method has proved successful when used during stroke rehabilitation. Just like the name implies, it boosts the neurons in the brain. When the Vagus vein is stimulated, it releases extra neurotransmitters to the brain to help the affected parts in coordination.

Clinical tests have been done on humans. Patients had the VNS device actively implanted on them for 90 days. The participants had suffered a stroke and had gone for several therapy sessions.

After the 6 weeks, 88 percent of the patients had tremendous progress. When compared to those without an active VNS device, the patients in the clinical trial had improved limb movement.

Also, the patients did not lose any progress they had made. During rehabilitation, some patients may drop off or slide back. The VNS device helps avoid this.

It is safe to use on patients. However, it is important to note that 3 of the patients in this clinical trial suffered severe effects after the device was implanted on them. There are clinical trials underway to eliminate the risks.

Bottom line: VNS doubles the recovery rate of a stroke patient. Despite the odds of having severe risks on some patients, it has proved successful to other patients too.

2. Re-training the brain

When a stroke hits a part of the brain, it stops working. The good news is you can rewire another part of the brain to kick in and fill the gap. Retraining the brain should start immediately for successful rehabilitation.

Stephen Zeiler and his clinical colleagues are behind this theory. With the use of mice, they confirmed this theory. Initially, they taught the mice how to get food then triggered mild strokes affecting their motor complex. The mice were incapacitated. They had no way to get to the food. After two days, the researchers retrained the mice. In just a week, the mice could reach for food. A different part of the brain was reprogrammed to step up.

For a higher success rate, starting this program early is key to a quick recovery. Unfortunately, this technique has not been conducted on humans. It has proven successful in mice. Clinical trials are underway for better insight.

Bottom line: Despite having a damaged part of the brain, it is remarkable to learn that you can teach another part of the same brain to step up.  

3. A new drug based on aptamers

Stroke patients undergo several hours of therapy every week. During this time, they also take medication to aid in the recovery process. One suffers a stroke when the brain lacks the supply of blood. This cause the brain cells to die within minutes.

Researchers from Duke University, University of Cincinnati, and Ohio State University came together to invent a new stroke rehabilitation drug. It has been designed to open the blocked blood vessels. The good news is this drug is reversible, unlike other drugs in the market.

When tested on dogs and mice, it has a higher success rate compared to the normal standards procedures being used. The research is founded on aptamers. The drug has peptide and oligonucleotide molecules which lock on a specific molecule. Researchers came up with an RNA aptamer that stops Von Willebrand Factor (VWF) and an antidote that reverses all activity. VWF is vital in thrombosis.

During the tests, the drug DTRI-031 aptamer stops the platelets from multiplying and prevents the formation of blood clots. In the case of a clot, the aptamer destroys it in both small and big animals. Remarkably, the oligonucleotide kicks in to reverse the action of the drug.

This drug has proven to be safe on animals. No clinical tests have been done on humans so far.

Bottom line

Current drugs in the market have hemorrhaging effects that are irreversible. This new drug beats this by having an antidote which kicks in in case of adverse reactions.

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