New UGA research identifies the mechanisms responsible for regenerating blood vessels in the brain.
Looking for ways to improve outcomes for stroke patients, researchers led by Susan Fagan, assistant dean for clinical programs in the College of Pharmacy, used candesartan, a commonly prescribed medication for lowering blood pressure, to identify specific growth factors in the brain responsible for recovery after a stroke.
The results were published online in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.
Although candesartan has been shown to protect the brain after a stroke, its use is avoided because lowering a person’s blood pressure quickly after a stroke can cause problems during the period of time following a stroke.
“The really unique thing we found is that candesartan can increase the secretion of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, and the effect is separate from the blood pressure lowering effect,” said study coauthor Ahmed Alhusban, a doctoral candidate in the pharmacy college. “This will support a new area for treatments of stroke and other brain injury.”
Alhusban and Fagan worked with Anna Kozak, a research scientist in the college, and Adviye Ergul, a professor and director of the physiology graduate program at Georgia Regents University. They are the first to show the positive effects of candesartan on brain blood vessel growth are caused by brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF. The research shows that when candesartan blocks the angiotensin II type 1 receptor, which lowers blood pressure, it stimulates the AT2 receptor and increases the secretion of BDNF, which encourages brain repair through the growth of new blood vessels.
“BDNF is a key player in learning and memory,” said Fagan, the college’s Albert W. Jowdy Professor. “A reduction of BDNF in the brain has been associated with Alzheimer’s disease and depression, so increasing this growth factor with a common medication is exciting.”