A new set of genes that may be responsible for the two most common and disabling neurological conditions, stroke and dementia, has been discovered by researchers, including one of Indian-origin.
The study may help scientists better understand, treat and prevent ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke, and perhaps Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, researchers said.
Stroke is the leading neurological cause of death and disability worldwide.
Previous studies have looked mainly at genes causing atherosclerosis and genes affecting the function of platelets and clotting processes as risk factors for ischemic stroke (clot obstructing blood flow to the brain).
A different set of genes have been associated with hemorrhagic stroke (bleeding into the brain).
Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) looked for new stroke genes using genome wide association as well as meta-analysis.
They identified a new gene called FOXF2 which increased the risk of having a stroke due to small vessel disease in the brain.
“Our research has identified a gene affecting another type of ischemic stroke, due to small vessel disease, and also suggests some genes may be associated with both ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke and may act through a novel pathway affecting pericytes, a type of cell in the wall of small arteries and capillaries,” said Sudha Seshadri from BUSM.
According to researchers, small vessel disease not only causes stroke but is also a major contributor to dementia risk, and is associated with gait problems and depression.
“Hence, it is exciting that we are beginning to better understand the cause of this very important and poorly understood type of stroke,” Seshadri said.
The findings were published in the journal Lancet Neurology.