New ischaemic stroke rehab could speed up recovery

Sep 9 2022

HMRI Dalara Early Career Research Fellow and StrokeCORE Founder and Executive Chair, Dr. Kirsten Coupland specialises in understanding what happens after ischaemic strokes – the type of stroke that occurs due to a blockage in an artery of the brain.

Coupland, who did her undergrad and PhD at UNSW and then spent three years at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden – the organisation that awards the Nobel Prize – has been working at HMRI since 2018.

Her work focuses on the role of cerebrospinal fluid in the after-effects of stroke. Coupland says that cerebrospinal fluid composition changes after stroke due to damaged cells releasing their contents, leakage of blood components into the brain and the brain activating different pathways to try and protect itself. All this can ‘wreak havoc’ on the brain.

She is trying to figure out how these changes to cerebrospinal fluid affect the brain and impact post-stroke recovery a day, a week, a month and even a year after the event.

“We think that there are sweet spots of neuroplasticity so if we work on rehab before these points, we might be able to speed up or improve post-stroke recovery,” Dr. Coupland said. 

She is also working to understand how a powerful therapeutic, hypothermia, improves stroke outcome. Hypothermia involves reducing body temperature. In stroke, it has been demonstrated to have powerful effects but is very difficult to establish in hospitals. Dr. Coupland is looking at how hypothermia protects the brain after stroke by examining cerebrospinal fluid samples.

Coupland works alongside another researcher, Professor Renee Turner from the University of Adelaide.

Coupland has been working on this for four years and says that she would love more pairs of hands to help her in the lab: ideally a PhD student.

If you are an interested PhD student who has completed a Bachelor of Science or Biomedical Science, and undertaken Honours, contact Dr. Coupland for more information.