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International Study Examines Genetic & Vascular Risk Factors for Brain Infarcts

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29 January 2019
CHeBA News: International Study Examines Genetic & Vascular Risk Factors for Brain Infarcts

KATE CROSBIE & HEIDI DOUGLASS | h.douglass@unsw.edu.au

An international research team including brain scientists and genetic researchers from UNSW Sydney’s Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA), has discovered two common genetic variants that link blood pressure with brain infarcts using the largest multi-ethnic genome-wide association study to date.  

The findings, which utilised data from CHeBA studies was published in the eminent journal Neurology, and highlight the importance of prioritising hypertension as a major modifiable risk factor. 

Brain infarcts, clusters of dead brain cells resulting from insufficient blood supply, are associated with increased risk of stroke, cognitive decline and other negative health outcomes such as dementia.  While they are commonly found in up to 20% of healthy older adults, they are poorly understood.

This research was undertaken by the Cohorts for Heart and Aging Research in Genomic Epidemiology (CHARGE) consortium.  This international collaboration investigated the contributions of genetic and vascular risk factors, such as blood pressure, to brain infarcts.  Almost 21,000 older adults contributed to the research across eighteen studies from five ethnicities.

“CHeBA champions big data studies as crucial for rapidly and reliably identifying significant risk factors on a universal scale,” said CHeBA’s Co-Directors and co-authors, UNSW Scientia Professors Perminder Sachdev and Henry Brodaty.  

Co-author and Head of CHeBA’s Genetics & Epigenomics Group, Dr Karen Mather, said that “high blood pressure measures and their genetic risk scores were associated with brain infarcts.”  

“While further research is required to replicate the findings, this research emphasises the importance of reducing high blood pressure”, said Dr Mather. 

“Findings like this help focus our attention on new research pathways and, ultimately, interventions to shape health outcomes,” said Professor Sachdev.  

The analysis study was supported by the National Institutes of Health USA and CHeBA’s work by the NHMRC.