Small vessel disease (SVD) happens when small arteries in the brain are blocked and blood supply is restricted. It causes one fifth of all strokes, called ‘lacunar’ strokes and is a major cause of dementia. The restricted blood supply caused by SVD leads to areas of damaged tissue which is called leukoaraiosis. This damaged tissue can cause stroke, disability and cognitive impairment.
For these reasons SVD is a major public health problem. Researchers do not yet fully understand what causes SVD and leukoaraiosis but it is thought that high blood pressure may be a risk factor. However, it is now believed that there could also be a hereditary link but there is little research evidence to support this.
This study aims to identify genes associated with SVD and leukoaraiosis using new technology which can identify and compare the genetic material of many different individuals. This study is using data from 4,000 stroke survivors and 6,000 controls. If such genes exist, those at risk can be identified early and treatments can be developed, therefore reducing the risk of stroke, disability and cognitive impairment.