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March 2005 Issue

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Gene Might Provide Clue to Predicting Stroke

Published March 2005

UC scientists have found a gene region that might play a significant role in determining the risk for ischemic stroke.

Reported Feb. 2 at the International Stroke Conference in New Orleans, the finding confirms the importance of a "stroke gene" (PDE4D) identified recently in Iceland, and might prove to be an important tool for targeting all people at higher risk for ischemic stroke.

The most common kind of stroke, ischemic stroke usually results from a clot blocking a blood vessel, which reduces blood flow to the brain. If the patient gets to a hospital quickly and blood flow is restored, recovery can be complete. Delayed treatment, however, can result in permanent neurological damage.

The UC researchers, led by Daniel Woo, MD, and Joseph Broderick, MD, analyzed variations of the PDE4D gene in 384 ischemic stroke patients and 447 controls. They found gene variations were significantly greater in those who had experienced ischemic stroke, among both blacks and whites, when compared with controls.

Other researchers at the conference discussed findings in Baltimore, Md., that showed an association with the PDE4D gene among young black ischemic stroke patients, but not among whites. A third study from Jacksonville, Fla., failed to find an association.

"Our finding requires further discussion," says Dr. Woo. "Nevertheless, we believe it's very strong in that it mirrors the results of the Icelandic study."

The Icelandic research was applauded as a landmark study in that it was the first large-scale, genome-wide linkage analysis for ischemic stroke. However, although the PDE4D gene was seen to be linked to stroke in a group of patients in Iceland, it remained for the Cincinnati researchers to show whether the gene really was an indicator of stroke risk elsewhere in the world, or merely an isolated finding.

"Our study doesn't prove that the gene leads to stroke, just that those who've had ischemic stroke are more likely to have the gene," says Dr. Woo. "But the research is in its infancy, and we hope to demonstrate this genetic link in the future."

If this link is confirmed, Dr. Woo says, then those who are predisposed to stroke may be identified earlier and given preventative therapy.

Dr. Woo, an assistant professor in the Department of Neurology, and Dr. Broderick, chairman of the department, headed a team of researchers from both the neurology and environmental health departments at UC.

Titled "Search for Stroke Genes," the study was funded by the Elizabeth B. Lips Memorial Fund of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation and two National Institutes of Health grants.

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