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October 28, 2011
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Neuroscience researchers from The Ohio State University College of Medicine are using a $1.3 million award from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke to better understand the role a specific type of brain cell plays in the pathology of strokes, which are the third leading cause of death globally and affect 750,000 American lives per year.
Strokes occur when blood flow to the brain is blocked. Min Zhou, assistant professor of neuroscience, and colleagues are using the new funding to build upon previous research from his lab which focused on determining what compounds inhibit or increase potassium channel function, which in turn may regulate the tone of cerebral blood vessels during stroke.
In this study, the scientists are studying a new type of potassium channel, a two-pore domain K + channel, in astrocytes, which are the most numerous brain cells strategically situated between blood vessels and neurons that act as transporters within the brain.
"We want to see if this potassium channel protects astrocytes during the pathology of ischemia and then also explain, at a molecular level, why these brain cells survive while neurons die off," Zhou says.
According to Zhou, the research is important for identifying new opportunities to examine astrocytes and potassium channel expression that helps astrocytes, as well as neurons, survive stroke. “Do astrocytes provide more harm than good to neurons? The answer to this question may hold the key to the development of future therapeutic options for patients,” he adds.