Stroke is one of the most deadly diseases in America. According to the American Stroke Association's 2017 data report, someone in the US has a stroke about once every 40 seconds. That's a worrying figure!

Since it is an alarming situation and we are sitting on a ticking time-bomb, we have now moved to nature for help and mother nature is ready to save us, as always - this time, in the disguise of big eyes and bushy tails, the ground squirrels.

Here is how and why the ground squirrels have taken the matter in their own tiny hands

According to the recent study published in FASEB (Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology) Journal, there is a cellular process in the brain of ground Squirrels which helps them survive a reduced blood flow during their hibernation period.

If we can develop the same cellular process in humans, then we can save ourselves from strokes and thus can save 795,000 people from stroke attacks per year.

What is a stroke?

Stroke is the attack that the brain suffers due to two reasons:

  • Ischemic Stroke
  • Hemorrhagic Stroke

Ischemic stroke is caused by a lack of blood supply to the brain, and hemorrhagic stroke is due to the blood leaking from the arteries into the brain.

Most of the strokes are ischemic in nature, which means our brain cells fail to cope with the reduced blood supply and thus we have a stroke, resulting in paralysis, speaking difficulties, and even death.

How can the ground squirrels help?

Ground squirrels have a cellular process which is known as SUMOrylation just like humans, but this process increases when the squirrels are in hibernation so that they can survive with less blood in their brain cells.

SUMOrylation is the process by which the cells can adapt and survive in non-favorable conditions like reduced blood flow. In this process, a SUMO (Small Ubiquitin-like Modifier) gets attached to a protein and gives it the power to survive!

There is an enemy though, named SNEP which prevents SUMO from getting attached to the proteins, so scientists are now finding an enzyme which can block SNEPs so that the SUMO can keep up their good work.

What will the new drug do?

The new drug that will be developed on the basis of the experiments will not just treat but also prevent us from getting a stroke in the first place.

Ebselen is a compound that looks promising to do the job and the scientists are very hopeful for it as it has given promising results in their experiments on mice.

The credit for this new Discovery goes to Dr. Hellenbeck and his team at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NIND). According to his teammate, Joshua Bernstock, "If we could only turn on the process hibernators appear to use to protect their brains, we could help protect the brain during a stroke and ultimately help people recover."

Let's keep our fingers crossed and be grateful to these little nut-loving rodents for showing us a new way forward for a stroke-free future.