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Brain cooling trial for stroke launched

Brain cooling trial for stroke launched Induces brain hibernation

A clinical trial which involves cooling the brain of stroke patients to improve survival and reduce disability has been given the go-ahead by the European Union.

Therapeutic hypothermia, or cooling, is already used to reduce the risk of brain damage following cardiac arrest and birth injuries.

Lowering the body temperature by around two degrees induces a kind of hibernation in the brain, reducing the need for oxygen and preventing further damage.

Now a Europe-wide trial, including a team from Edinburgh University, will test the technique on 1,500 stroke patients.

Preliminary trials suggest the technique is most effective if the patient undergoes brain cooling within six hours of having a stroke.

Dr Malcolm Macleod, head of experimental neuroscience at the University of Edinburgh, said: "Every day 1,000 Europeans die from stroke - that's one every 90 seconds - and about twice that number survive but are disabled.

"Our estimates are that brain cooling might improve the outcome for more than 40,000 Europeans every year."

The technique is also being watched with interest by the European Space Agency because of its possible applications for the future of long distance space travel.

The aim of the EuroHYP-1 trial is to use the brain cooling technique to treat 1,500 stroke victims. If it proves to be successful the procedure could be rolled out across Europe, potentially benefiting hundreds of thousands of stroke patients a year.

Each year around 150,000 people have a stroke in the UK, and more than 50,000 die from one. Stroke is also the biggest cause of severe disability.

This article was published on Mon 19 March 2012

Image © James Steidl - Fotolia.com

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