Scientists discover 'stroke protection gene' – that also guards against heart attack and migraine

Researchers hale 'important breakthrough'

Scientists have discovered a gene that protects people from the most common cause of stroke in young and middle-aged people.

The gene, which was isolated by studying the DNA of nearly 16,000 patients across the USA and Europe, also reduces the risk of migraines and could lower heart attack risk.

Researchers at Royal Holloway, University of London, said that the discovery was “an important breakthrough”. A variant of the gene PHACTR1 was found to be protective against a condition called cervical artery dissection, a separation of the layers of arteries that carry blood to the head, which is the leading cause of stroke in the young.

The discovery could one day lead to new treatments for the disease.

Pankaj Sharma, professor of clinical neurology at Royal Holloway said that the “DNA biobank” which yielded the information could lead to more discoveries in the future.

“This is an important breakthrough,” he said. “Our findings provide us with a greater understanding of how this region of the genome appears to influence key vascular functions, which could have major implications for the treatment of these severe and disabling conditions.”

Approximately 152,000 people suffer a stroke in the UK every year. Most are suffered by the over 65s, but they can affect people of any age.