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A discovery by researchers at the University of Rochester could help slow down the harmful neurological effects experienced by stroke victims.

Strokes are caused by an interrupted blood supply to the brain, or by blood vessels that leak. Brain cell death can spread for up to a week and damage the victim's movement, speech and memory. A team led by neuroscientist Dr. Howard J. Federoff has discovered the cell death culprits: two genes that normally protect cells from cancer and the effects of low oxygen levels.

After a stroke, the two genes mysteriously turn into powerful molecular signals that encourage brain cells to die. Learning how to switch off these two genes could help control cellular damage after a stroke, Federoff said. In a laboratory setting, about 50 percent of the cells normally killed after a stroke were saved.

The research, published in the August issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, could lead to a new generation of drugs that limit cell death and reduce the severity of disability following a stroke.

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