UCSD laser technique sheds light on strokes

A technique developed at the University of California, San Diego that precisely creates and images blood clots in the brain in real time could make it possible to understand the small strokes implicated in many forms of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease.

The study, published this week in the early on-line edition of the journal Public Library of Science Biology, represents a collaboration between the research groups of David Kleinfeld, professor of physics at UCSD, and Patrick Lyden, professor of neurosciences at UCSD's School of Medicine. The paper will appear in the print edition of the journal in February.

Using a laser to trigger the formation of individual blood clots in tiny arteries of the brains of anesthetized rats, the researchers were able to monitor the resulting changes in blood flow. They say that their study provides a way to understand small strokes common in elderly humans. These strokes often cause no immediate symptoms, but they are thought to contribute to dementia and may ultimately cause larger strokes.

"Our technique makes it possible, for the first time, to precisely target individual blood vessels to create a blood clot while causing very little collateral damage," explained Kleinfeld. "We can then follow, in real time, the changes in blood flow in surrounding vessels that occur as a result of the formation of a clot in one small artery of the brain."

"We know from MRI scans that small strokes are very common in the brains of elderly patients," added Lyden. "Such small strokes have been linked with dementia, and may also put patients at risk for a major stroke. The power of the technique we describe in the paper is that it allows us to study the response of the brain to stroke in a controlled way. By understanding what happens, we hope to learn how to prevent the major damage associated with stroke."

In the study, the team members used tightly focused laser light to

Contact: Sherry Seethaler
University of California - San Diego

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