A stroke is caused by a blockage of blood vessels due to a build-up of fatty acids. Upon experiencing a stroke, people are treated with aspirin that prevents blood clots. Patients may also be treated by tissue plasminogen ac
tivators which are the only drugs approved by the FDA to treat strokes specifically. Dr. Rink of the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center is the pioneer of a new study focusing on the ability of vitamin E to prevent strokes and is passionate about the research because he is “frustrated” by the lack of adequate treatments for strokes after 25 years of clinical trials have been conducted.
A series of animal studies was conducted measuring the effects of Vitamin E on blood vessels during a stroke. The type of vitamin E used was tocotrienol, which is found in palm oil and blocks cholesterol production in the liver as well as reduces general cholesterol. Once the animals had received a 10 week supply of the vitamin, researchers noted it started arteriogenesis, which is an increased diameter of the arteries responding to a demand in oxygen. This both prevents brain damage and provides a collateral supply of blood.
Dr. Rink explained that people with good collateral blood supplies recover better from strokes. In order to measure how vitamin E promotes arteriogenesis, Dr. Rink developed a laser method that enables him to analyze brain tissue and blood vessels in areas that arteriogenesis occurs in. He can use this to identify how tocotrienol affects genes during a stroke. In addition, he is also conducting studies to try and see if vitamin E will prevent or alleviate brain damage from secondary strokes, which are often more debilitating than first strokes.
This research is still new and needs more supplemental studies before doctors can pinpoint how exactly vitamin E affects patients recovering from strokes. Although there is still much work to be done, Dr. Rink predicts that just as aspirin is suggested to help cardiac patients, vitamin E will one day be used in a similar fashion for stroke prevention.