Leean Hendrix looks well today, but in 2002, at age 26 she suffered a stroke that paralyzed one side of her body. Physical therapy helped her recover most of her movement, but she lost many of her memories.
"I do not remember my first kiss. I do not remember prom. I don't remember playing sports. You know, all those things that kind of help to make you the person you are today, I don't remember them," said Hendrix, a stroke survivor.
Leean's stroke was caused by a blood clot in the brain. Clot-busting drugs can make a huge difference in stroke survival and recovery, but those drugs prevent clotting everywhere in the body, and can cause bleeding in the brain. Leean wasn't given them because of the risks. Now biomedical researcher Andras Gruber and his colleagues have engineered a drug that could be safer.
"What we found is a way to attack the bad clot without attacking the good clot," said Andras Gruber, Ph.D. a Oregon Health and Science University researcher.
They reported in the journal "Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology" that their new drug is inactive until a bad clot forms. At that point, it interacts with the blood vessel wall to stop clot formation. In animal studies they saw no adverse effects.
"What we wanted to see whether if you increase the dose of this drug, what happens? And we could not produce a side effect," said Dr. Gruber.
Human trials are still several years out, but if it works in people, the drug could be given at the first sign of stroke. It could restore circulation to the brain minutes or hours earlier than current treatments, fast enough to give people like Leeann a future, without losing their past.
The researchers say the drug could also have the potential to be an emergency treatment for heart attacks and other conditions caused by clotting.