Stroke research

Strokes cause around 36,000 deaths a year in the UK alone, and are the single biggest cause of severe disability. But thanks to your support, we're able to fund vital research to find new treatments for stroke.

What is a stroke?

A stroke happens when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off. This usually occurs as a result of a blockage in an artery and can cause brain cells to become damaged or die, affecting how your mind and body work. Strokes caused by blocked blood vessels are called ischaemic strokes. Around 15% of strokes, and 40% of deaths from stroke, are caused by a blood vessel in the brain bursting, this is called haemorrhagic stroke.

Find out more about the symptoms and causes of stroke.  

Treating the untreatable

Lacunar stroke accounts for around one in five strokes and has no proven treatment. It’s caused by damage to the small vessels deep within the brain which affect the flow of blood, and can lead to long-term disability and dementia.

Professor Joanna Wardlaw at the University of Edinburgh is leading a clinical trial of drugs she believes could offer a new treatment for this devastating type of stroke. These new drugs may help reduce the damage to the arteries in the brain that cause the stroke. If the trial is successful and shows the drugs are safe, it could lead to a larger trial that could finally reveal a way to treat lacunar stroke.

Using broccoli to protect the brain

When a person has a stroke caused by a blood clot in the brain, the clot can sometimes be broken down by clot-busting drugs. However, when this happens, molecules, called free radicals, travel into the part of the brain that has been re-supplied with blood, where they can damage brain cells.

Giovani Mann and his colleagues at King’s College London BHF Centre of Research Excellence, have been studying a molecule called sulforaphane, which is found in broccoli, to find out if it can be used to limit the harmful effects of these free radicals.


Strokes caused by a blood clot (ischaemic strokes) are often treated with a clot-busting drug to dissolve the clot and restore blood flow to the brain. If this is done within four and a half hours of having a stroke, clot-busting drugs can improve long-term outlook and recovery. But about a fifth of strokes occur when someone is asleep, and they wake up with symptoms. In these cases, it’s not possible to know whether the stroke started within the four and a half hour window, so these drugs are not given - as it’s not known if they would be effective.

We’re funding a team of researchers at the University of Leicester led by Professor Thompson Robinson, who will test a new clot-busting drug, tenecteplase, in people who’ve had a stroke in their sleep. The team, who are part of a larger international clinical trial, called the Tenecteplase in Wake-up Ischaemic Stroke Trial (TWIST), will give around 200 patients either current normal care after a stroke or normal care and tenecteplase, and assess whether the drug helps their recovery.

Find out about our research successes