Results from a genetic study on stroke conducted by an international group of researchers has identified 22 new genetic risk factors for stroke, and suggest that stroke may share genetic influences with other vascular conditions.

The study—reportedly the largest genetic study on stroke ever—was conducted by members of MEGASTROKE, a large international collaboration launched by the International Stroke Genetics Consortium, an international multi-disciplinary collaborative of experts in stroke genetics from around the world who have been working together for the past 10 years.

Published recently in Nature Genetics, the study included DNA samples from 520,000 people from around the world, and compile data from 29 other large genetic studies. Among those included in this group, 67,000 had a stroke.

By analyzing millions of genetic variants among the DNA samples, the researchers identified the 22 stroke risk factors, which is triple the number of gene regions known previously, according to a media release from the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

In addition to the risk factors, the researchers gained important new insights into the specific genes, molecular pathways, and cell and tissue types through which the new genetic risk factors cause stroke.

Among these insights suggested by the results of the study is that stroke shares genetic influences with other vascular conditions, such as atrial fibrillation, coronary artery disease, venous thrombosis, or vascular risk factors, especially elevated blood pressure, and, to a lesser extent, high cholesterol, the release continues.

“This study really advances what we know about the genetics of stroke,” says Steven Kittner, MD, professor of neurology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) and the Baltimore VA Medical Center and a co-author of the study.

“With this new information we can help researchers work to develop new treatments and new therapies,” he adds.

John Cole, MD, an associate professor of neurology at UMSOM and the Baltimore VA Medical Center, concurs, stating that, “This work provides evidence for several novel biological pathways involved in stroke that may lead to the discovery of novel drug targets.”

Braxton Mitchell, PhD, MPH, a professor of medicine at UMSOM and a co-author of the study, shares that, “These findings, which link stroke with multiple other diseases, and with dysregulation of genes, proteins, and molecular pathways in specific cell types and organs, were generated using novel bioinformatics approaches that use information from many international biological databases. This work underscores the vital importance of data sharing.”

[Source(s): University of Maryland School of Medicine, Newswise]