Washington: A commonly prescribed blood pressure lowering medication appears to kickstart recovery after a stroke by boosting blood vessel growth.

The discovery, based on a study using rats, occurred only because the team, led by Susan Fagan, professor of clinical and administrative pharmacy at the University of Georgia has opened a new path in stroke research by examining the healthy side of the brain after a stroke.

"I'm very excited because I think we can harness the restorative properties of the...other side of the brain - with drug therapies," Fagan said, the journal Public Library of Science ONE reports.

"When most researchers study stroke they compare the animal's side of the brain that's damaged to the opposite side, assuming that that side is normal or not affected," said Fagan, according to a university study.

For the study, Fagan and her team induced strokes in two groups of male Wistar rats by blocking a major artery in the brain. A third group, did not experience strokes so that scientists could compare healthy brain hemispheres across all groups.

One group received a single dose of saline solution; the other received a dose of the BP drug candesartan. The third group received no treatment.

Animals treated with candesartan displayed higher levels of growth factors that aid with the formation of new blood vessels in the brain, a result that confirmed that of earlier studies from the lab.

However, the study revealed a previously unobserved phenomenon: Different types of growth factors dominated different hemispheres in the brain, which suggested that candesartan could have healing properties beyond the area of damage.