Strokes are the second largest cause of death around the world. This malady causes over six million deaths every year according to the World Health Organization. While there is little that can be done to prevent a stroke, there has been a lot of new research recently that can help in the fight to detect whenever a stroke is likely to occur or not. This is especially helpful since the world's population is starting to age and be placed in the high-risk for stroke demographic.
A genetic variant has been detected in recent studies conducted by St. George's University of London that is very likely to increase the chances of someone having a stroke. The most common type of strokes-artery ischaemic stroke-occurs when there is a blockage within one or more of the major arteries supplying oxygenated blood to the brain. This type of stroke accounts for about one third of all strokes, so about two million deaths each year.
Within the study, 10,000 stroke victims had their genetic disposition analyzed and compared to 40,000 otherwise healthy people. A gene called HDAC9 has been pinpointed as a precursor to stroke. This variant gene is in about 10 percent of all humans. In people with two copies of this gene, getting one copy from each parent, the risk of having a stroke nearly doubled as compared to individuals with no HDAC9 gene.
The implications of this are huge, yet hard to actually act upon. The gene produces a type of protein that helps with muscle and heart development, but why this doubles the risk of stroke in comparison to people that have zero copies of HDAC9 is still unknown. Once this gene and its functioning is better understood, there is a good chance that this can lead to better development of stroke medications. But for now, there is actually little that can be gained from this discovery.
This does not make the discovery fruitless. Any furthering of knowledge that can be gained about strokes carries the potential of learning how to prevent and better treat them in the future. So while there is no immediate practical value to this discovery, there is no telling exactly what kind of future progress can be made. Hopefully, this will result in great things as far as stroke treatment goes. For example, there are already a couple medications out on the market that are effective in regards to limiting the proteins created by HDAC9. Whether or not these drugs can help prevent stroke remains to be seen, but the outlook is pretty optimistic.
The use of these drugs for stroke prevention is still a ways in the future, but this does not mean that they can not be used to save countless lives. With the Baby Boomer generation reaching the high at-risk age, this research might be just in time.