Using an opioid drug to induce a hibernatory state in rats reduces the damage caused by an artificial stroke. Researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Biology have shown that those animals put into the chemical fugue suffered less behavioral dysfunctions after a period of cerebral artery blockage than control rats.
Cesar Borlongan, a neuroscientist at the University of South Florida Center for Aging and Brain Repair, in Tampa, FL, worked with a team of researchers from the National Institutes of Health, USA, to investigate the role of the opioid system in brain injury and protection. He said, "Studies in hibernating and active squirrels have shown that 'natural hibernation' has anti-ischemic effects. We've shown that a drug that induces hibernation can achieve similar results".
Borlongan and his colleagues dosed the rats with [D-ala2,D-leU5]enkephalin (DADLE), a drug from the same pharmaceutical family as morphine and heroin. They found that, after an experimental stroke, the pretreated animals performed better than control rats in a series of behavioral tests. The researchers write, "DADLE prevented cell death processes and behavioral abnormalities. The observation that this substance, previously shown to induce hibernation, attenuated deficits inherent in cerebral ischemia provides a new pharmacological target for stroke therapy".