News of the WeekNeuroscience

New Stroke Treatment Strategy Explored

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Science  25 Feb 2000:
Vol. 287, Issue 5457, pp. 1379-1381
DOI: 10.1126/science.287.5457.1379

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In work described on page 1453, neuroscientists in effect immunized rats against the brain nerve cell death caused by stroke and severe seizures. The team vaccinated animals with a virus that had been genetically engineered to contain part of the NMDA receptor. Excessive stimulation of this receptor, which occurs when massive amounts of the neurotransmitter glutamate are released in the wake of a stroke, contributes to neuronal death. The team theorized that the modified virus would stimulate the production of antibodies that could slip into the stroke-damaged brain, seek out NMDA receptors, and prevent them from being excited to death. The strategy proved surprisingly effective--in rats. But the experts caution that immunizing people with such neural antigens could have harmful effects, including encephalitis and learning disruptions.