Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States and is known to run in families, so unraveling the genetic contributions to the condition has the potential to help millions avoid stroke and stroke-related disabilities.
University of Texas Health Science Center researchers have identified a common genetic variant found in millions of people that leads to an increase in stroke risk.
Publishing in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), Eric Boerwinkle and his team found that on chromosome 12 near two genes there are two genetic variants that are linked to stroke.
The WNK1 is associated with blood pressure, reports Reuters, while the NINJ2 is associated with brain injury repair. Two single-letter changes in the DNA near the NINJ2 appear to have the strongest stroke signal.
The two genes exist next to each other. Together they are linked to ischemic stroke, the most common kind caused by blockage of blood in vessels leading to the brain.
Altogether the genetic code of more than 19,000 people from the U.S. and Europe and revealed that about 10 percent of African-Americans and one in five Caucasians have at least one copy of this genetic variant. Each copy increases the risk of ischemic stroke by about 30 percent.
The variant was not associated with non-ischemic stroke.
Differences in the sequence of 3 billion DNA base pairs are called single nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPS. They become the guideposts to find disease genes.
“Identification of genes that predispose to stroke may aid in the identification of persons at increased risk of stroke in whom particular vigorous attention to preventative measures can be applied,” according to Philip A. Wolf, one the study’s lead authors in a news release.
Besides genetic factors a person’s risk factors for stroke also include smoking and high blood pressure. New research shows that Ginko biloba, an herb, may help protect the brain from damage after a stroke. #