Saturday, November 20, 2010
GOOD NEWS IN RAT RESEARCH
In the last few weeks I have been somewhat concerned that my blood pressure is not quite as low as I would like it to be or as I think it should be. In the back of my mind is always the threat of a stroke. In my dreams a blood pressure of 120/70 is possible, but in wakefulness it appears not to be attainable, or even close. Periodically my doctor will change the type, style or dosage of my blood pressure medication, but my systolic mostly stays in the mid 130s and the diastolic in the mid 80s. Too high, I say. My mother worked with stroke patients in occupational settings, and she said she preferred to die quickly of a heart attack than to suffer the debilitating effects of a severe stroke. She got her wish, but she left me with her fear.
So it was with a great deal of excitement that this morning I read of a new finding for stroke recovery – at this time only proven on rats – which might be what all potential stroke victims have been waiting for. A UC Irvine neuroscientist presented his research last week at a meeting in San Diego. And it appears the answer couldn’t be simpler. The “magic bullet” as it pertains to rats is simply this: Tickling the rat’s whiskers. Yep. What could be easier?
According to the LA Times article, in a stroke “a blood clot blocks blood flow to the brain and starves key areas of the cortex, where memory, attention and language functions are controlled.” In strokes, quick intervention is the key to limiting brain damage. So in this research the rats were given a kind of brain injury that mimics an ischemic stroke. The researchers already had determined that rats have a natural whisker motion when they are exploring their environments, and the research was to determine if stimulating their whiskers for 90 minutes after being given a “stroke” would cause the blood to be quickly rerouted to the damaged area, thus limiting and repairing the damage. Sure enough, it seemed with that kind of stimulation the brain began healing itself and the rats improved.
The researchers say lots more investigation must be done, but in speaking about its application to humans, “We’re looking for something that can help people wherever they are and long before they get to a hospital”
And researchers aren’t sure exactly what kind of stimulation humans would require equal to whisker tickling. One thought is perhaps touching on the lips or the fingers would be sensitive targets. But certainly for men, I think it would be very wise to grow a beard or a mustache – or even possibly a soul patch, just in case! What’s good for a rat surely must be good for a man.
And as for us women, I suppose we’d better rethink plucking our chin hairs!