QBI researchers are investigating ways to protect neurons from injury

Using the simple neural model organism C. elegans, QBI researchers are investigating ways to protect neurons from injury.

Protecting brain cells—neuroprotection—involves investigating mechanisms and strategies to protect against neuronal injury or degeneration, limiting the extent of brain damage following stroke and facilitating effective recovery.

Stroke deprives a region of the brain of a good blood supply. Blood transports oxygen from the lungs into the brain to allow nerve cells to live. Stroke, therefore, puts nerve cells at risk of dying, but the number of individual cells lost appears to be variable.

Indeed, some of these nerve cells can survive if adequate blood flow is re-established quickly after a stroke. For recovering optimal brain function, it is critical to keep the maximum number of nerve cells alive for as long as possible after a stroke, especially in conjunction with treatment with clot-busting reagents like tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) or surgical clot retrieval.

Dr Steven Zuryn, the recipient of the Stafford Fox Foundation Grant, aims to build on his recent discoveries published in the journal Science to find an answer. He has uncovered mechanisms deep within the DNA of individual nerve cells that prevent them from being adversely affected by environmental changes like lowered oxygen. Pharmaceuticals that can replicate the effect of these DNA mechanisms may increase neuronal survival and have enormous potential in minimising the effects of stroke.

Addressing the growing problem of stroke and supporting the crucial research at QBI’s Stroke Recovery Research Laboratories, will create a more positive and worthwhile future for not only Australian stroke survivors, but also the 62 million stroke survivors around the world.

Read more: QBI's stroke fundraising initiative
Read next: Making new brain cells