Call for war on strokes

Andrew Clarkson.
Andrew Clarkson.
University of Otago researcher Andrew Clarkson says New Zealand should ''declare war'' on strokes and strengthen related research, after successfully cutting the national road toll.

Dr Clarkson, a senior research fellow in the university anatomy and psychology departments, said about 2500 people died in New Zealand from strokes each year, nearly 10 times the number killed on our roads.

Provisional New Zealand Transport Agency data shows 254 people were killed on New Zealand roads last year, well down from a peak of 843 deaths in 1973.

Many stroke deaths were preventable, but funding for stroke research remained limited and should be strengthened, given the size of the stroke-related death toll, he said.

The strong, Government-backed leadership shown in combating the road toll had proved effective, and lessons could also be learned in efforts to reduce stroke deaths.

Dr Clarkson has been undertaking drug-related research that aims to boost recovery from strokes by restoring contact with ''silent brain cells''.

Some brain cells are killed in strokes, but recent research suggests that some nearby cells previously thought to have died could potentially be reactivated, helping boost functional recovery.

Dr Clarkson is a member of the university's Brain Health Research Centre, which was formally launched this week.

In its initial form, the Otago centre was established in 2006, and has since grown from modest beginnings to a network of more than 220 researchers.

Dr Clarkson welcomed the centre's launch, and its decision to adopt strokes as its main theme for this year.

His research had been significantly boosted last year by two ''fantastic'' grants, totalling $1 million, from Danish funding authorities, including from the Danish Research Council.

The funding supports research by two Danish researchers, working in association with his Otago laboratory.

This overseas funding also highlighted the need for more New Zealand funding for brain health research in general, including for stroke-related studies, he said.

The brain centre has joined forces with the Otago Museum to offer Dunedin's first Brain Awareness Week, starting with a talk by Prof Liz Franz and other speakers, at the museum at 12.30pm this Monday.

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