A small molecule known to regulate white blood cells has a surprising second role in protecting brain cells from the deleterious effects of stroke, Johns Hopkins researchers report. The molecule, microRNA-223, affects how cells respond to the temporary loss of blood supply brought on by stroke — and thus the cells’ likelihood of suffering permanent damage.
“We set out to find a small molecule with very specific effects in the brain, one that could be the target of a future stroke treatment,” says Valina Dawson, Ph.D., a professor in the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine’s Institute for Cell Engineering. “What we found is this molecule involved in immune response, which also acts in complex ways on the brain. This opens up a suite of interesting questions about what microRNA-223 is doing and how, but it also presents a challenge to any therapeutic application.” A report on the discovery is published in the Nov. 13 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.