An injection given to heart attack and stroke sufferers could radically reduce their devastating effects, a new study claims.
Heart attacks and strokes can cause potentially devastating inflammatory tissue damage to the heart muscle and brain cells. The attacks are caused by interrupted blood flow through a clot or bleed which deprives body parts of oxygen.
Most of the long-term damage happens when circulation begins again - and the body's own defences for some reason attack the oxygen-starved cells. But scientists in Britain have developed an antibody that greatly limits the damage.
Work has begun to translate the "milestone achievement" into clinical therapies with the injection in animals proving successful.
Professor Wilhelm Schwaeble, of Leicester University's department of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation, led the research with King's College London, Japan's Medical University of Fukushima, and the State University of New York.
Prof Schwaeble said: "This is a fascinating new achievement in the search for novel treatments to significantly reduce the tissue damage and impaired organ function that occur following ischaemia in widespread and serious conditions such as heart attacks and strokes.
"This new potential therapy was also shown in animals to significantly improve outcomes of transplant surgery and may be applicable to any surgical procedure where tissue viability is at risk due to temporary interruption of blood flow."
The research, which has taken seven years, is expected to culminate with the first clinical trials taking place in the Leicester Biomedical Research Unit, at Glenfield Hospital, Leicester.
The international team's research is published in the Early Online Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).