Gene For Stroke Recovery

A New Link Discovered Between A Certain Gene And Stroke Recovery Could Offer A Second Chance For Millions

We may be getting the first pill to counteract the physical and mental aftermath of a mild stroke.

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In the United States, strokes are a leading cause of disabilities, with more than six million Americans suffering from arm and leg weakness, poor muscular control, and memory lapses (amongst other symptoms) after even mild instances. This past week, UCLA scientists discovered a key link between a particular gene (known as CCR5) and recovery from strokes — namely, the fact that those patients who lacked CCR5 had an improved course of recovery from mild stroke than patients with the gene.

According to senior author Dr. S. Thomas Carmichael, chair of the neurology department at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, such a revelation may be a deciding factor in the formation of the first pill to counteract the physical and mental aftermath of mild stroke.

The CCR5 gene plays a plethora of roles as a member of the beta chemokine receptor family, a seven transmembrane protein similar to G Protein coupled receptors (GPCRs). Expressed by T cells and macrophages, this protein is known to be a co-receptor for macrophage tropic viruses such as HIV to enter host cells. Current data built upon from prior research suggests that suppressing CCR5 enhances neurons' ability to form new connections and rewire the brain after injury. A study performed in 2016 by UCLA neurobiologist Alcino Silva demonstrated that maraviroc, an FDA-approved drug that targets CCR5 in order to reduce the spread of HIV in patients, improved learning and memory in mice.

From this data, Carmichael hypothesized that maraviroc could also accelerate patients' rate of recovery from stroke. His team partnered with pharmacologist Esther Shohami at Hebrew University to test the drug's effectiveness in a mouse model, and concluded that maraviroc blocked CCR5 in mice and boosted their recovery from traumatic brain injury and stroke.

Armed with the knowledge that CCR5 deletion is a common genetic trait of Ashkenazi Jews, Carmichael and his team reached out to Tel Aviv University scientists (led by neuroscientist Einor Ben Assayag) who were following stroke patients in an observational study, documenting their improvements in movement following their incidents. Patients missing the CCR5 gene were found to have significantly greater recovery in motor skills, language, and sensory function. Approximately one year after stroke, these same patients also scored higher in tests assessing memory, verbal function and attention, as compared to patients expressing the CCR5 gene. The CCR5 deletion appears to enhance recovery by enabling plasticity, allowing neurons to make new connections to rewire the brain, and regain lost function.

The scientists' next steps will include launching of clinical trials testing the effectiveness of maraviroc on stroke patients with the CCR5 gene. While there is still a ways to go in terms of complete recuperation, these promising developments will surely be instrumental in the development of drugs and medical techniques designed to accelerate recovery from stroke through gene silencing.

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Stop Demonizing CBD Just Because You Associate It With THC

CBD doesn't get you high, do your research.

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I'm sure you've heard about CBD already, but if not, then let me break it down for you. Cannabidiol, CBD, is one of the hundreds of cannabinoids identified in the cannabis plant, but unlike the THC in the marijuana plant, it doesn't have any psychoactive properties.

CBD doesn't get you high.

When extracted from the plant, CBD has proven to be effective in the medical field. It has shown to be effective in the treatment of epilepsy, in the management of pain, in reducing depression and anxiety, and relieving cancer symptoms, among a host of other uses. New research from Mount Sinai Hospital in New York has revealed that CBD may be beneficial for society as a whole, too.

Researchers at Mount Sinai Hospital conducted the study to understand how we can fight the opioid epidemic through the discovery of alternative treatment options by assessing the potential effects of CBD on craving and anxiety in heroin users.

42 drug abstinent men and women between the ages of 21 and 65, who had recently stopped using heroin, were recruited for the study. Two groups were formed out of the participants: a control group that received a placebo and a test group that received CBD doses ranging from 400 mg to 800 mg per day. After administration, participants were exposed to neutral environmental cues and cues that would be considered drug-use inducing over three sessions. The cues in the environment were tested because an addict's environment and the cues it gives are the strongest triggers for relapse and continued drug use.

The results of the research hold great promise for the future of CBD.

Participants who were in the test group and given CBD had significantly reduced cravings for heroin, and noted feeling less anxiety when exposed to drug-use inducing cues. Moreover, the CBD had a lasting effect on this group as it continued to reduce cravings and relieve anxiety for seven days after the last dose was administered. In essence, this is the most important takeaway from the research: CBD had lasting effects well after it was present in the body. Numerous vital signs like heart rate, skin temperature, blood pressure, and oxygen saturation were taken to ensure only objective results were obtained since cravings and anxiety are subjective feelings. Another finding was a reduction in participants' heart rate and salivary cortisol levels, which would have both increased in the presence of anxiety-provoking images.

I think the evidence points to a logical conclusion: CBD is safe, it is effective in treating opioid addictions, and it is beneficial for those who experience a host of issues from pain, to anxiety, to epilepsy or to illnesses. Now is the time to keep pushing for legalization to continue larger scale studies and introduce CBD as a valid treatment option.

"A successful non-opioid medication would add significantly to the existing addiction medication toolbox to help reduce the growing death toll and enormous health care costs." - Yasmin Hurd, director of the Addiction Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.

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