A genetic predisposition to stroke in young women

A study by researchers at the University of Maryland, to be published in this month’s issue of Human Molecular Genetics, provides evidence of gene variations which increase the risk of stroke in young women.

The study was carried out on 400 Afro-Carribean and Caucasian women aged between 15- 49, half of whom had suffered a stroke in the past. The gene in question, phosphodietsterase 4D (PDE4D), has previously been implicated in predisposing older men to stroke.

The researchers examined over a dozen polymorphisms in the gene, five of which are associated with an increased risk of stroke. It was also found that smokers carrying one of these variants were at much higher risk of stroke, and that the more they smoked, the greater the risk of stroke. 

In contrast to earlier findings that there is a higher prevelance of stroke in black people, the risk of stroke was found to be similar in black and white women carrying one of the five variant alleles.

According to John W. Cole, lead author of the paper:

We have verified that specific variations, or polymorphisms, that occur within a particular gene are associated with increased stroke risk; now we need to explore why. With a better understanding of these polymorphisms, we may someday develop a genetic test to identify women who may be at greater risk of stroke. These women could receive more intensive screening and counseling for other stroke risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure and the use of oral contraceptives.

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