Plasma α-Melanocyte Stimulating Hormone Predicts Outcome in Ischemic Stroke

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Background and Purpose—

α-Melanocyte stimulating hormone (α-MSH) is an endogenously produced neuropeptide derived from the same precursor as adrenocorticotropic hormone. α-MSH has profound immunomodulatory properties and may also be neuroprotective. Nothing is known about α-MSH and changes in its plasma concentrations in patients with acute ischemic stroke.


In this prospective observational study, plasma concentrations of α-MSH, adrenocorticotropic hormone, cortisol, and interleukin 6 were assessed longitudinally over the course of 1 year after stroke onset in 111 patients. Logistic regression was used to the effect of initial plasma α-MSH, adrenocorticotropic hormone, cortisol, and interleukin 6 on long-term outcome.


There was an early decrease in plasma α-MSH in patients with severe stroke (National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale ≥17) that normalized over the course of the year; these same patients evidenced elevations in plasma cortisol and interleukin 6. Higher initial plasma α-MSH, but not adrenocorticotropic hormone, cortisol, or interleukin 6, was independently predictive of good long-term outcome.


This research is the first to study endogenous changes in plasma α-MSH after stroke. The independent effect of early plasma α-MSH on stroke outcome, as well as a growing body of experimental data demonstrating improved stroke outcome with exogenous α-MSH administration, suggests a potential therapeutic role for α-MSH in the treatment of stroke.

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