A breakthrough in the treatment of brain swelling -- the most common factor causing death in Western society -- has been made by scientists at Trinity College Dublin.
The development has implications for saving the lives of people whose brains have swollen after head injury, stroke, heart attack or brain tumours.
Acute brain swelling kills over 66,000 people in Europe each year and almost 1.6 million are admitted to hospital with the condition annually.
More people suffer a swelling of the brain after injury each year than the numbers diagnosed with breast, lung, prostate, brain and colon cancer combined.
The Trinity scientists have found a way to safely manipulate blood vessels in the brain to allow fluid to drain back into the bloodstream.
Normally the blood-brain barrier in the body does not allow this to happen.
Chief Executive of the Health Research Board, Enda Connolly said the had the potential to directly impact patient care.
Dr Matthew Campbell, of the Ocular Genetics Unit at TCD, said there has been "little change in treatment of brain swelling over the past 80 years".
According to neurologist Dr Colin Doherty of St James's Hospital, brain swelling caused by "cardiac arrest, head injury, stroke and brain tumours is the most common factor leading to death in Western society".
It also "plays a major role in worsening the outcome of those who survive".
Reducing the effect of brain swelling was likely to have a profound impact" on patient survival and will have reverberations through the public health system, he said.
The scientists initially developed a technique for treating swellings in the brain area involved in vision and quickly realised the same technique could be used to alleviate swelling in all parts of the brain.
A simple medication is injected into a peripheral vein which allows the fluid in the brain to drain back into the blood.
The researchers are now ready to carry out clinical trials both here under Dr Doherty and in the US at Duke University under team collaborator, neurosurgeon Prof Gerald Grant.