Squirrels and strokes

My dad used to keep a bag of peanuts by the front door.

And when we asked him about it, he say… “Look here.”

He’d open the door, and quietly shake the bag a bit.

And out of the bushes would come this mangy looking squirrel. He was a bit of a mess.

But my father must have taken pity on him, because “Spike” (my dad named him, not sure where that name came from) would come right up and gently take a peanut from my dad’s hand.

Then proceed to devour it, and wait for seconds.

This would go on a bit, and off Spike would go, once he was sure the handouts for the day were over.

I was thinking of ol’ Spike today when I came across a story that links squirrels with a groundbreaking treatment for stoke.

Maybe my dad was onto something…

Stoke is one of this country’s biggest health burdens. Almost 800,000 people in America each year have a stroke.

And almost 9 in 10 are what’s called “ischemic.”

That’s when the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the brain gets blocked. When brain cells are deprived of oxygen and nutrients, they wither away.

And this brain damage is what causes much of what we associate with stroke, like impaired speech or paralysis.

In order to limit the damage, you have to get the blood flowing quickly. And a drug called tPA (tissue plasminogen activator) is what’s typically used, because it dissolves the clots that block blood from getting to your brain.

This drug has to be administered quickly – within hours, or it won’t work.

But what if you could instead protect the brain cells from reduced oxygen damage?

That’s where Spike and his friends come in.

When squirrels hibernate, they produce enzymes that protect against brain damaging proteins.

If we could turn on a similar process in a stroke victim’s brain, then we’d be onto something pretty special. Something that would work for more people, and faster.

So far, researchers have found 8 enzymes that they think might work. Now the process of study continues. Hopefully it leads to a breakthrough.

So the next time you’re cursing that squirrel who’s face deep in your bird feeder… maybe cut him a break?

Or toss him a peanut?

God Bless,

Jeff Reagan

Editor, Patriot Health Alliance

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