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Scientists Spot Stroke Genes
Date:4/15/2009

Chromosomal region contains two suspect variants that raise risk for brain attack

WEDNESDAY, April 15 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists have identified a chromosomal region that may contain two genetic variants responsible for an increased risk of ischemic stroke.

About 20 percent of whites and 10 percent of blacks in the United States and Europe have at least one copy of the genetic variant. Each variant increases the risk of this type of stroke by 30 percent, according to the authors of a study being published online Wednesday and in the April 23 print issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The hope is that this discovery will one day translate into new treatments and ways to prevent the most common type of stroke.

"You need to start with something, and having this information allows you to try to attempt to look at prevention," said Dr. Keith Siller, medical director of the Comprehensive Stroke Care Center at New York University Langone Medical Center. "It may not mean anything now, but how can you even begin to tackle prevention of this disease if you don't know what causes it. This is a very important initial step."

Siller was not involved with the study, which was funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and other arms of the National Institutes of Health.

The eventual implications are potentially enormous.

Ischemic stroke, caused by blocked blood flow to the brain, accounts for almost 90 percent of all strokes.

"Stroke is the number three cause of death and the leading cause of disability," Siller said. "We're talking about millions and millions of people who have some sort of genetic predisposition."

Research on stroke has traditionally focused more on lifestyle factors.

"There hasn't been very much known about specific genes in stroke," Myriam Fornage, co-author of the study and a cardiology professor at the Brown Foundat
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