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Genomic markers of cerebral small vessel ischemia

Principal Investigator:
  • Liam Brunham, University of British Columbia
  • Heart and Stroke Foundation

Project Overview

Damage to the small blood vessels of the brain is a major contributor to stroke and dementia. While risk factors for vascular disease such as smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol contribute to small vessel disease, we currently lack methods to identify patients at risk of developing this condition. As a consequence, damage to the small blood vessels of the brain is typically not identified until a patient has already had a stroke or developed dementia, or these changes are detected on a CT scan or MRI of a patient’s brain. For this project, Dr. Brunham and his team aim to identify genomic markers that predict small vessel disease of the brain. Specifically, they will investigate patients that have had strokes or dementia due to small vessel disease, or who have brain imaging showing evidence of damage to the small blood vessels of the brain, compared to patients with no such damage. They will search for DNA variants that are associated with the risk of small vessel disease of the brain. By identifying a DNA based marker that predicts the risk of small vessel disease they will be able to test patients early on in life to identify individuals at risk of this disease. These patients could receive intensive lifestyle and medical intervention to reduce their risk of ultimately developing these devastating neurological consequences.