Signature Genetic Material Leads to Stroke

Genetic plaque finding could lead to new stroke treatments

(RxWiki News) Strokes can be tough to treat. Scientists have discovered a common genetic thread with plaques that can build up and lead to stroke. It could be a key piece of the puzzle in new treatments.

The identification of a "signature" in genetic material, only present in plaques in patients who experienced a stroke, may help researchers pinpoint the types of artery wall plaques are the most dangerous.

"Exercise and eat healthy to lower your risk of developing dangerous plaques."

Dr. Francesco Cipollone, the lead researcher with G. d’Annunzio University, Chieti-Pescara and Clinical Research Center in Chieti, Italy, discovered a pattern of five microscopic pieces of genetic material called microRNAs (miRNAs) in patients who suffered from a stroke. He is the first to suggest that the genetic material could provide information about the most deadly plaques.

Investigators examined 31 patients with plaque build up who had not had a stroke. Plaque is composed mostly of cholesterol, fat and calcium, and constricts and narrows arteries to the heart. About 20 percent of plaque is unstable and is at risk for sudden rupture, which could lead to death. Plaques also can cause blood clots that lead to a stroke or heart attack.

Researchers also enrolled 22 patients who had plaque and had experienced a stroke. They then looked for miRNAs in both groups of patients. The miRNAs were only found in those who had previously had a stroke.

MicroRNAs have shorter molecular chains than messenger RNA.  They take genetic information contained within the DNA, and allow it to be turned into proteins with various functions. They can't translate genetic information, but they bind to the longer messenger RNAs and act as a switch to aid in regulating protein production.

The finding could lead to new stroke treatments, including prevention efforts. Researchers suspect they can create new drugs that are designated to hone in on plaques that are near rupturing.

The study was published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Review Date: 
August 3, 2011