Post-stroke brain inflammation might have a positive side, say scientists of a new study published in Journal of Neuroscience.
One of the consequences of strokes is inflammation following the death of nerve cells in the affected area of the brain. It is generally thought to be a problem needing to be solved. Surprisingly, though, a new research challenges this perspective, arguing that the inflammation might assist the brain in the process of healing.
Researcher Zaal Kokaia from Lund University in Sweden says that the results are “in total contrast to our previous beliefs”.
The inflammation is associated with an influx of cells of the immune system such as monocytes which then transform into macrophages that are meant to remove dead tissues. Kokaia and his team found that these cells have another function: they secrete certain substances that boost the repair process of the damaged brain region.
This might explain the recovery of stroke patients. It is known that the latter are able to heal over time, but the exact cause has remained elusive. This improvement might be due (partly) to the action of the immune cells.
This conclusion was reached when Kokaia and his colleagues discovered that mice with fewer monocytes in their blood would recover less effectively from stroke than mice with a normal immune system.
The study brings hope to stroke patients. A new treatment method might be developed based on these findings to promote healing in the brain within the first few weeks of the stroke. This is deemed to be better as current treatments have to be administered mere hours after the stroke.
The researchers now wish to test their findings in humans. Will the addition of more monocytes in the brain enhance the process of self-healing? Or, will the alternative of boosting the production of monocytes in the body be better? So many questions that need to be answered. However, the authors point out that there is no reason to think that the brains of humans will be much different from those of mice in this aspect.
This study is one of the few that shows the other side of inflammation – it is not all that bad, and can even be beneficial.