Stanford University researchers have found that a compound mimicking the activity of a brain stimulating protein is able to help mice recover from strokes.

Mice that were administered the compound LM224-A after suffering strokes showed improvements in walking ability and speed at a faster rate than mice that were not administered the compound.

Researchers said the results are promising because the compound was administered a full three days after the onset of the stroke – meaning it did not limit the stroke’s initial damage to the brain, but rather, enhanced recovery.

“Right now, we don’t have any medications to give to patients to help them recover more quickly from a stroke,” senior author Dr. Marion Buckwalter, an assistant professor of neurology, neurological sciences and neurosurgery at Stanford University School of Medicine, told FoxNews.com.  “If a patient gets to the hospital within four-and-a-half hours of experiencing symptoms, there are drugs that can bust up the clots that caused the stroke and limit the damage, but many don’t get there in time.

“It would be revolutionary to have a drug that can help patients get better faster or get better overall,” she added.

LM224-A was identified in a prior experiment by the study’s co-author, Dr. Frank Longo, the professor and chair of neurology and neurological sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine.  It is a small molecule that mimics a brain protein called BDNF.

BDNF is responsible for stimulating the brain’s own stem cells to form new neurons and then fostering the survival of those newborn nerve cells.  In an analysis, the mice that were administered the copycat LM224-A compound were shown to have twice as many new nerve cells in stroke-affected areas of the brain.

“The receptor [which LM224-A stimulates] helps the organism make new useful circuits – it strengthens connections used in the brain,” Buckwalter explained.  “So, for example, say a mouse is trying to re-learn how to use its front leg.  In order to learn something new or re-learn something when nerve cells have died, the new nerve cells try to form connections.  Activation of the receptor helps bring stronger connections and re-wire the brain.”

Approximately 800,000 people in the United States suffer a stroke every year, making it the country’s leading cause of long-term disability.  The older the victim, the harder it typically is to recover.  Some researchers suspect it is because BDNF production decreases as we age.

The next step for researchers is to do further studies with the LM224-A compound before eventually moving on to clinical trials in humans.

The study was published Tuesday in the journal Stroke.