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New findings in stroke research

Rats, blue dye and a year of lab work have given university researchers the ability to potentially save stroke victims’ lives.

A new study from USF, which was published last month in the journal PLOS ONE, could help medical professionals understand the brain damage that happens to people after a stroke. One of the student researchers in the study, Jerry Abraham, a junior majoring in microbiology, said the study could save lives and benefit researchers everywhere.

“I loved this study because it has so much purpose,” Abraham said. “What we have discovered and learned from this study is applicable to so many new facets of research.”

Svitlana Garbuzova-Davis, lead author of the study and associate professor in the department of neurosurgery and brain repair, said the researchers used a rat model to study the subacute phase of a stroke, one of three phases and one which has typically been ignored by scientific research. Researchers injected rats with blue dye and then induced strokes.

Under powerful microscopes, the blue dye allowed researchers to see where blood was released into brain tissue. The blood, during a stroke, can pass through a barrier between the circulating blood within the brain and the brain tissue. This is called the blood-brain barrier .

Garbuzova-Davis said the team found brain damage does not happen just in the side of the brain where the stroke occurs — the opposite side of the brain is also affected and shows microvascular injury within a week after the stroke.

She said brain damage associated with strokes is a leading cause of dementia and death in the U.S.

With the new information gathered by this research, Garbuzova-Davis said finding a way to repair the BBB is what will potentially save lives. With a new understanding of how stroke affects the BBB, she said USF Health has now started research on the ways to repair the BBB.

“We found something that no one really knew about,” Abraham said. “This research is going to better the community by the remarkable work USF put in.”

Garbuzova-Davis said she believes the results yielded by this research have the ability to change lives.

“What we found is new research and can potentially help a lot of people,” she said.

Abraham said he worked on the yearlong project as a student researcher. His primary responsibility was to section rat tissue and then stain the tissue for various tests.

He said his part of the research looked at paralysis after the stroke, which can also damage and cause paralysis in the spinal cord.

Abraham said he loved every second he got to work in the lab.

“When I applied to USF and had to pick a major, I didn’t find anything that I really wanted to do,” Abraham said. “After getting involved with this study I saw how much USF contributes to all types of research, and my school spirit was reinvigorated.”

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the James and Esther King Biomedical Research Program, and researchers from several departments, including integrative biology, psychiatry and internal medicine collaborated on the project.