High Blood Sugar and Bloody Brains

Researchers identify protein responsible for increased bleeding in stroke victims with high blood sugar

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Researchers have identified a protein that contributes to increased brain hemorrhaging following stroke in patients with diabetes and high blood glucose levels (hyperglycemia).

Compared to their healthier counterparts, patients suffering from diabetes and hyperglycemia often experience greater amounts of bleeding in the brain as a result of stroke. The discovery of this protein, called plasma kallikrein, may help scientists find treatments that reduce the harmful effects of stroke that are amplified in those with diabetes and hyperglycemia.

Strokes are one of the main causes of disability and death in adults. The mortality rate is especially high for those who suffer strokes involving brain hemorrhaging. 

Working in the lab of Edward Feener, Ph.D., an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, researchers at the Joslin Diabetes Center discovered that plasma kallikrein obstructs the blood clotting process in the brains of rats with high blood sugar. When the researchers injected plasma kallikrein into the brains of rats with diabetes, they observed a dramatic increase in the level of bleeding compared to non-diabetic rats injected with the same protein. What's more, the researchers found that inhibiting the effects of plasma kallikrein in diabetic animals reduced the levels of bleeding.

Through further research, Feener and colleagues found that high blood sugar, as opposed to diabetes itself, at the moment of brain hemorrhage is to blame for increased bleeding.

According to Feener, these findings present exciting news, as they suggest that controlling blood sugar levels may reduce the risk of excessive brain hemorrhaging in stroke victims that suffer from diabetes and/or high glucose levels.

The study appears online in the journal Nature Medicine.

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Review Date: 
January 24, 2011
Last Updated:
January 25, 2011