Health Beat: Bursting blood clots: Medicine's next big thing?

Published: Dec 25 2013 10:00:00 AM EST
CINCINNATI -

If you're having a stroke, it's crucial that you get medical help as quickly as possible. The right treatment can mean the difference between life and death and reduce future impairment. 

Now, doctors are testing a possible new, medical breakthrough for stroke victims.

"One side of the body doesn't work. They can't speak. They can't see," said Dr. Arthur M. Pancioli, professor and chairman in the department of emergency medicine, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

Most strokes are caused by a blood clot that blocks the flow of blood to the brain. If you get help within three hours, you can get a drug called TPA, but Pancioli, an expert in emergency medicine, warned of the risks. 

"With that drug, one in about 16 patients that you treat will have bleeding into the brain," Pancioli said.

Dr. George Shaw and researchers at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine are testing a breakthrough technique to dissolve human blood clots more quickly, without the risk of bleeding. They’re using a natural enzyme called plasmin.

"It's the most effective therapy we've ever looked at," said Shaw, emergency medicine associate professor, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

The plasmin is loaded into a special bubble called a liposome. Through an IV, they send it directly to the blood clot.

"We pop that bubble with an ultrasound pulse and release the plasmin right where you want it," Shaw said. "I think it's going to be a major step forward for stroke therapy."

And it could be a major breakthrough for the millions of people who suffer a stroke. 

As with TPA, doctors would still need to give the plasmin within three hours of the onset of stroke. Clinical trials with plasmin could start in five years.

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DOWNLOAD and VIEW the full-length interview with Dr. Arthur M. Pancioli