Scientist to put patients into 'hibernation' to treat strokes

The treatment involves cooling the body temperature to limit damage to the brain

Related Stories

Scotland is to play a major role in a trial of artificial hibernation to treat strokes, it has been revealed.

Stroke patients from all over the UK will be offered a chance to take part in the Edinburgh University study.

The treatment involves cooling the body by two degrees to prevent further damage to the brain.

Cooling pads and cold intravenous fluids will be used to bring the body's temperature down from 36.8 degrees to between 34 and 35 degrees.

The technique is already used to reduce brain injury after cardiac arrests and birth injuries. It is hoped it will have the same effect in stroke victims.

'Substantial' effect

Dr Malcolm Macleod, head of experimental neuroscience at the University of Edinburgh, said: "People may have heard stories about people falling through the ice and making an amazing recovery because they've been cold at the time.

"There have been a number of small studies looking at whether cooling the body could improve outcome for stroke. It's not enough to tell us for sure if it works but it suggests there may be substantial beneficial effect."

Start Quote

Dr Malcolm Macleod

What this trial is trying to test is whether this treatment will make a difference to everyday patients”

End Quote Dr Malcolm Macleod University of Edinburgh

It is not known exactly how cooling the body reduces injury to the brain.

One theory is that it reduces the amount of oxygen required by the brain, another is that it triggers a defence mechanism in the cells.

Small-scale trials suggest it is most effective when used within six hours of a stroke.

Scientists hope it will reduce the number of deaths and the number of people left disabled, and increase the number of people who make a complete recovery from one-in-13 to one-in-10.

"It looks like we'll be ready to go in September of this year, recruitment to the trial will run for about four years, so by 2016 or 2017 we'll have our answer," added Dr Macleod.

"What this trial is trying to test is whether this treatment will make a difference to everyday patients, suffering everyday strokes, in everyday hospitals."

European results

The EuroHYP-1 study will involve 1,500 patients in 15 European centres. About 200 will be in the UK, up to 80 of whom will be in Scotland.

Scottish researchers will also be involved in collecting and analysing results from all over Europe.

Upon admission to hospital, patients will be asked if they want to take part in the trial or, if they are not able to give consent because of their stroke, it is possible under certain circumstances that relatives can agree on their behalf.

The study has been met with much excitement since there are few treatment options for strokes.

About 13,000 people in Scotland have a stroke every year. A third die, and another third are left with a significant disability.

Recruitment will begin in September or October and run until 2017. Results are expected in 2018.

The study will also be watched carefully by the European Space Agency.

It is interested in human hibernation as a means for long-haul interplanetary space travel.

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Scotland stories


Features & Analysis

  • Cartoon of women chatting on the metroChat wagon

    The interesting things you hear in a women-only carriage

  • Replica of a cargo boxSpecial delivery

    The man who posted himself to the other side of the world

  • Music scoreFinal score Watch

    Goodbye to NYC's last classical sheet music shop

  • Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton checks her Blackberry from a desk inside a C-17 military plane upon her departure from Malta, in the Mediterranean Sea, bound for Tripoli, Libya'Emailgate'

    Hillary gets a taste of scrutiny that lies ahead

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • Audi R8Best in show

    BBC Autos takes a look at 10 of the most eye-catching new cars at the 2015 Geneva motor show


  • A cyborg cockroachClick Watch

    The cyborg cockroach – why has a computer been attached to this insect’s nervous system?

Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.