Squirrels could hold the secret to preventing brain damage in stroke patients


An animal commonly seen in parks may be the key to helping human brain damage due to strokes. 

A study published in the FASEB Journal draws a parallel between hibernating squirrels and stroke victims. 

When squirrels hibernate, their brains are protected from the decreased blood supply, allowing them to wake up without any ill effects from lack of nutrients.

During an ischemic stroke in a human being, blood flow is cut off to parts of the brain, thereby depriving those cells of oxygen and nutrients needed to survive. This often leads to difficulties in speech and paralysis. 

RELATED: Stroke risk factors and stroke symptoms

Stroke risk factors and stroke symptoms
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Stroke risk factors and stroke symptoms

Strokes are more common among the elderly, with the chance of stroke nearly doubling each decade after the age of 55. 

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Stroke risk is greater in those whose immediate family members have had a stroke, and a stroke can be a symptom of various hereditary disorders.

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The risk of death from stroke is higher in African-Americans as they also have higher risks of complications like high blood pressure and diabetes. 

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Women are also more likely to die of a stroke, possibly due to factors such as birth control usage and pregnancy complications.

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Strokes are more likely in people who have already suffered a stroke or a heart attack. 

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Southeastern states are also called the "stroke belt" states, as strokes are more common in this area. 

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Alcohol abuse can lead to many problems, including strokes. 

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Speech difficulties are a major symptom of someone who has had or is having a stroke.

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Possibly the most noticeable sign of stroke is the drooping of one side of the face, or face numbness.

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Weakness on one side of the body is another symptom of a stroke. 

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Scientists from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke are taking a clue from the hibernating squirrels, and are trying to develop a drug that would help the brain survive without blood and oxygen. This could potentially save lives as well as decrease the lasting effects of stroke.

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