Growth hormone could play critical role in stroke rehabilitation and recovery, Hunter researchers say

Hope grows: Study co-authors, post-doctoral research fellow Dr Lin Kooi Ong, and University of Newcastle associate professor, Rohan Walker, were part of a team who found a link between growth hormone and stroke recovery.HUNTER researchers believe human growth hormone could play a critical role in improving the quality of life of stroke survivors.

Up to 80 per cent of survivorssuffer from memory loss and learning difficulties, but acollaboration between University of Newcastle, Hunter Medical Research Institute andSweden’s University of Gothenburg has found administeringgrowth hormone after stroke“significantly” improved cognitiveperformance. The first-of-its-kind treatment could be a game-changer in stroke recovery and rehabilitation, the study’s co-author and post-doctoral research fellow, DrLin Kooi Ong, told the Newcastle Herald.

“Ourfindings are remarkable, and very exciting, because in pre-clinical modelling we found that the growth hormone considerably enhancedmemory and learning performance,” he said. “Our results show a significant improvement in learning and memory tasks after the therapy, as well as a reduction in neural tissue loss.”

RELATED: Young stroke survivors struggle to return to work.

The growth hormone treatment also promoted “brain plasticity”by aiding new blood vessel growth and the repair of “neuronalnetworks” after stroke.

“Wetook a microscopiclook at the brain cellsandfound a huge spike neurotrophic factors, which act as brain fertiliserto help brain cells grow and improve function,” Dr Ong said.

While growth hormone was already used in medical treatment, this was the first time ithadbeen applied for its possible link between stroke and recovery.

“It is alreadyapproved for human usage as a therapy for patients suffering growth hormone deficiency, and the safety and efficacy profile of it is well documented,” Dr Ong said. “We have the capacity to re-purpose this drug to be used in the context of stroke recovery, and it is already looking very promising.”

RELATED: Life changes in one stroke.

Dr Ong said the next step was clinical trials.

Their research had evaluated the effects ofadministering growth hormone at 48 hours post-stroke for 28 days, but he was optimistic it would also benefit those who had suffered a stroke years earlier.

“The brain continues to remodel and re-network throughout our lives, so this treatment will actually givehopes to many stroke survivors –in there is almost half a million,” he said.

Co-author and HMRI directorProfessor Michael Nilssonsaidthere had beensignificant progress in reducing deaths from stroke, but the effects could be long-lasting.

“Our community is faced with the new challenge of treating and rehabilitating survivors, hence the importance of this work,” he said. “This encouraging discovery will be a welcome development for all those touched by the devastation stroke can leave behind.”

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