UK researchers have helped devise a simple blood test that could mark a new era in stroke treatment by substantially increasing the number of patients eligible for therapy.

The timing of a stroke is a critical element in deciding what therapy to give patients. The quicker treatment is administered, the more chance of reducing damage to the brain.

However, it is often unclear when symptoms began, and as UK guidelines state that the clot-busting treatment known as rt-PA can only be given within 4.5 hours of a stroke occurring, this poses a significant problem for doctors, and leaves around 35% of patients without access to the best therapy.

Now, scientists from British group Proteome Sciences and the University of Geneva scientists have come up with the basis for a simple blood test that can help shed much more light on when a stroke took place.

Their study, published in the journal PLoS One, showed that one particular protein, called GSTP, shot up in the blood of stroke patients to peak about three hours after it took place, and then returned to normal again within six hours or so. 

Effective marker?

Therefore, GSTP was concluded to be an effective marker in determining the timing of a stroke, and its use could result in as many as five times more people being eligible for treatment with rt-PA, the researchers claim.

"This is a major step towards improving the management of ischaemic stroke patients using the drugs that we already have available," said study lead Prof Jean-Charles Sanchez.

"A simple blood test that matches the therapeutic window of rt-PA is a major advance that we encourage clinicians, pharmaceutical and diagnostics companies to unite to rapidly bring this into routine practice to improve patient outcomes,” he added.