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Vampire Bat Saliva Holds Key to Stroke Treatment

Drug derived from it extends time window for limiting brain damage

THURSDAY, Feb. 5, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- A synthetic drug derived from the saliva of vampire bats holds promise for treatment of acute stroke.

Believe it or not, that's what researchers are reporting at the American Stroke Association's annual meeting in San Diego on Feb. 5.

The drug, called desmoteplase, appears to extend the time window for treatment of acute ischemic stroke. The study found the drug prevents stroke-related brain damage if it's given to patients between three and nine hours after the onset of stroke symptoms. Currently, three hours is the standard window.

Desmoteplase is a genetically engineered version of a blood clot-dissolving protein found in the saliva of the vampire bat. The drug can issolve a blood clot without affecting the rest of the body's clotting system and without increasing the risk of intracranial bleeding, the study says.

The study included patients in Europe, Australia and Asia. An ongoing twin U.S. study is being conducted to identify the appropriate dosage and effectiveness of desmoteplase.

"This new approach to acute stroke treatment is novel in two ways: it uses an improved clot-dissolving drug and also takes advantage of new MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) techniques to help select the right patients for treatment," Howard Rowley, an associate professor of radiology at the University of Wisconsin Medical School, says in a prepared statement.

Rowley is lead radiologist for the U.S. study.

"The results of the [international] study are even more exciting, as they show specifically how the use of the drug significantly extends the time during which treatment can begin after the onset of stroke symptoms, from three hours to nine hours," Rowley says.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about stroke prevention.

SOURCE: University of Wisconsin, news release, Feb. 5, 2004
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