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Nat Med. 2008 May;14(5):497-500. doi: 10.1038/nm1735.

A new penumbra: transitioning from injury into repair after stroke.

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Neuroprotection Research Laboratory, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Charlestown, Massachusetts 02129, USA.


The penumbra is an area of brain tissue that is damaged but not yet dead after focal ischemia. The existence of a penumbra implies that therapeutic salvage is theoretically possible after stroke. The first decade of penumbral science investigated the ischemic regulation of electrophysiology, cerebral blood flow and metabolism. The second decade advanced our understanding of molecular mechanisms that mediate penumbral cell death. And the third decade saw the rapid development of clinical neuroimaging tools that are now increasingly applied in stroke patients. But how can we look ahead as we move into the fourth decade of penumbra research? This author speculates that a paradigm shift is needed. Most molecular targets for therapy have biphasic roles in stroke pathophysiology. During the acute phase, these targets mediate injury. During the recovery phase, the same mediators contribute to neurovascular remodeling. It is this boundary zone that comprises the new penumbra, and future investigations should dissect where, when and how damaged brain makes the transition from injury into repair.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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