Four Decades of Ischemic Penumbra and Its Implication for Ischemic Stroke

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The ischemic penumbra defined four decades ago has been the main battleground of ischemic stroke. The evolving ischemic penumbra concept has been providing insight for the development of vascular and cellular approaches as well as diagnostic tools for the treatment of ischemic stroke. rt-PA thrombolytic therapy to prevent the transition of ischemic penumbra to core has been approved for acute ischemic stroke within 3 h and was later recommended to extend to 4.5 h after symptom onset. Mechanical thrombectomy was introduced for the treatment of acute ischemic stroke with a therapeutic window of up to 24 h after stroke onset. Multiple modalities brain imaging techniques have been developed that provide guidance to define ischemic penumbra for reperfusion therapy in clinical practice. Cellular and molecular dissection of ischemic penumbra has been providing targets for the development of neuroprotective therapy for ischemic stroke. However, the dynamic nature of ischemic penumbra implicates that infarct core eventually expands into penumbra over time without reperfusion, dictating relative short therapeutic windows and limiting the impact of current reperfusion intervention. Entering the 5th decade since the introduction, ischemic penumbra remains the main focus of ischemic stroke research and clinical practice. In this review, we summarized the evolving ischemic penumbra concept and its implication in the development of vascular and cellular interventions as well as diagnostic tools for acute ischemic stroke. In addition, we discussed future perspectives on expansion of the campaign beyond ischemic penumbra to develop treatment for ischemic stroke.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)937-945
Number of pages9
JournalTranslational Stroke Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Ischemic stroke
  • Neuroprotection
  • Neurovascular unit
  • Oligemia
  • Penumbra
  • Reperfusion therapy


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