“We know that eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and foods low in saturated fat can help prevent heart disease and stroke, but can some of these vegetables treat and reverse stroke? I think it can, and my team is working to prove it at the molecular level.”
A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is cut off, depriving brain cells of oxygen and essential nutrients, causing affected areas of the brain to die. The most common cause of a stroke is a blood clot that blocks blood flow, known as an ischemic stroke.
Nearly 55,000 Australians suffer a stroke each year, often without warning and at any age. It is a leading cause of disability and costs an estimated US$7.74 billion in healthcare costs in Australia each year.
Since tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) was approved for use in stroke in 1996, no other medicines have been approved for the urgent treatment of ischemic stroke. Giving tPA to patients suffering from stroke or “thrombolysis” has a very limited effect to unblock the blood supply, meaning that only 20 percent of stroke patients respond to this treatment, leaving 80 percent of patients with disabilities or regional brain death.
In an exciting discovery, Dr. Liu previously demonstrated in preclinical studies that isothiocyanates found in broccoli can double the rate of arterial clearance by tPA and increase the success rate to 80 percent in laboratory models.
“Alone there was no change, but when we combined the isothiocyanates with tPA in laboratory models, blood clots dissolved up to 80 percent because the molecules target platelet activity in a way that tPA does not.”
“This natural product also successfully fights thrombosis selectively without impairing the body’s protective response to bleeding. This means they are potentially safer drug candidates with fewer side effects for antithrombotic treatment.
“Current treatments are a double-edged sword – by removing blood clots, it also means a patient is at increased risk of bleeding in the brain should they require emergency surgery.
“We’re looking for clues in nature to find this magical anti-clotting drug that can work where it’s needed but still provide patients with antithrombotic treatment,” he said.