New genetic clues point to new treatments for small, often 'silent', strokes
Researchers have identified new genetic clues in people who have had small and often apparently 'silent' strokes that are difficult to treat and a major cause of vascular dementia, according to research led by Hugh Markus (Clinical Neurosciences) and published in The Lancet Neurology.
Researchers discovered changes to 12 genetic regions in the DNA of people who have had a lacunar stroke – a type of stroke caused by weakening of the small blood vessels deep within the brain. Over time, damage to the blood vessels and subsequent interruption to blood flow can lead to long-term disability, causing difficulty with thinking, memory, walking and ultimately dementia.
There are few proven drugs to prevent or treat lacunar strokes. The blood vessels affected are less than a millimetre wide and a lacunar stroke can strike without the person knowing. It's not usually until someone has had a number of these strokes and starts to see signs of dementia that they realise something is wrong.
To date, only one genetic fault has been associated with lacunar strokes. However, after over a decade of research, Hugh Markus and his team at the University of Cambridge working with researchers from around the world now believe their genetic breakthrough holds the key to finding much-needed treatments for lacunar stroke and vascular dementia.