Stroke is the most frequent cause of permanent disability in adults and a major cause of death worldwide. Caused by a sudden blockage in important blood vessels that supplies oxygen and nutrients to the brain, brain cells can quickly die due to starvation. Opening blocked blood vessels urgently to restore blood flow (Revascularisation) is therefore the main aim of current treatment.
However, even after successfully re-opening occluded vessels and completely restoring blood flow as quickly as possible, many brain cells that were living at the time of revascularisation still progress to cell death for reasons not completely understood. Many stroke patients still have devastating disability despite receiving the best available treatment. Furthermore, some brain cells have unpredictable bleeding and swelling after revascularization. These unexplained events have major impact on how effective treatments works and directly affect stroke sufferers’ recovery and quality of life.
This research is focused on understanding these processes by using advanced MRI brain imaging to analyse how human brain cells die and recovery after revascularization in stroke. We will be recruiting stroke patients at the Royal Melbourne Hospital to undergo a series of specialized MRI scans over 12 months that will simultaneously examine the structure, function and metabolism of brain cells and their blood vessels within and around the stroke area as they progress through the different stages of injury, recovery and reorganisation.
Understanding these processes will be major step towards maximising the benefits of current treatment as well as discovering new therapies by helping brain cells become more resilient and recover better following a stroke. Ultimately, we hope to help stroke survivors live with less disability thereby reducing the devastating disease burden for them and their carers.