A Canadian-made drug may decrease the risk of stroke by making the brain more resilient to a lack of oxygen, according to a new study.

The study showed that patients who were given the drug NA-1 saw significantly fewer brain lesions following brain surgery -- which carries a risk of stroke -- compared to a placebo group.

Researchers also found that the drug was safe, with just two incidents of low blood pressure in the group that received the treatment.

The findings were published Sunday in the international journal The Lancet Neurology.

Lead study author Michael Hill of the University of Calgary’s Hotchkiss Brain Institute of Canada, said NA-1 provided brain surgery patients with “tissue neuroprotection,” meaning brain cells were protected during surgery, when there is restricted blood flow to the brain.

He said the drug was shown to reduce tissue damage in patients who suffered small strokes after operations to repair brain aneurysms.

“It’s a major unmet need in stroke treatment,” Hill said in a news release.

Dr. Markku Kaste of Helsinki University Central Hospital in Finland said the drug could be particularly useful in low-income countries where many patients do not have access to medical supervision after suffering a stroke.

According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, there are more than 50,000 strokes in Canada each year and 40 per cent of patients are left with moderate to severe impairments.

Millie Nelles didn’t know if she was given the drug or the placebo when she took part in the NA-1 trial more than a year ago.

Nelles later found out that she not only was administered the drug, but she was the very first patient to test NA-1.

She told CTV News that following surgery for a brain aneurysm,  she feels better than she has in years.

“I feel so blessed because I am standing here, alive and so blessed,” she said. “I can start the path for many people who will follow in my footsteps.”

Researchers are now planning further studies that will see the drug administered to patients having strokes in the emergency room and in ambulances en route to the hospital.