Resveratrol, a compound found naturally in red wine, can help minimize brain damage that occurs after a stroke, according to researchers at John Hopkins University. Resveratrol helped prevent neural cell damage or death in experiments with mice as well as with isolated cells.
Resveratrol "induces an enzyme that shields nerve cells from damage," explained associate professor Sylvain Doré, who led the study and presented the abstract at the annual Society for Neuroscience conference, held last month in Atlanta.
The most common stroke, an ischemic stroke, occurs when a blood clot blocks the flow of oxygen to the brain, shutting down some of the areas of the mind. When this stress occurs, rogue oxygen molecules called free radicals are released into the brain, destroying neurons. Resveratrol is credited as having antioxidant properties, though the pathways in which it operates are not fully understood.
In the study, mice on a diet supplemented with resveratrol had 30 percent to 40 percent less neuron cell death after suffering from a stroke, compared to mice that were given just water. Doré also found that neurons that were cultured in a petri dish and pretreated with resveratrol were protected from damage when strokelike conditions were induced. The researchers therefore concluded that moderate drinkers of red wine may be less likely to have a stroke than nondrinkers, and that resveratrol may help to protect against brain cell death should a stroke occur.
Recent research on resveratrol has linked the compound to a wide array of health benefits, such as the recent finding that it helps to counteract the effects of an unhealthy diet in mice. Studies have also linked resveratrol to lower cholesterol levels and better lung function. Resveratrol may also fight certain types of cancer and reduce the growth of skin melanomas.
Doré and his team fed three different groups of mice resveratrol in a single dose and kept one group as a control--the highest dose was 20 milligrams per kilogram. Two hours later the scientists induced a stroke. Blood flow was returned to normal 90 minutes later and the mice were kept alive for 24 hours after. Brain damage in the mice was similar across all groups, except the group that received the highest dose of resveratrol. Those mice had 30 percent to 40 percent less neuron death when compared to the other groups.
In an additional experiment, the researchers treated mouse brain cells in petri dishes with 25 micromoles (a measure of a compound's concentration) of resveratrol. After inducing strokelike conditions, the resveratrol-treated cells had a 60 percent greater survival rate than the control group of cells.
In this experiment, Doré and his team observed that resveratrol induced an enzyme, heme oxygenase, that detoxifies the brain and protects neural cells. Doré said resveratrol's ability to activate this enzyme indicates that the polyphenol may have potential for preventing other brain ailments, especially hemorrhagic strokes, which occur when blood vessels burst.
Doré estimated that people who consume up to two glasses of red wine a night may gain some protection against stroke damage, but cautioned that clinical trials are needed to determine if his study's findings will carry over to people. "The absorption and metabolism of resveratrol is very different in humans and in mice," he said.
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