This research is about bleeding (haemorrhage) in the brain caused by bursting (rupture) of an abnormal swelling (aneurysm) – causing a devastating form of stroke known as subarachnoid haemorrhage (SAH). SAH causes death in about 50%, and dependence in about 20% of people. Because SAH most often affects younger people, it causes a great deal of disability in people of working age, and often leads to hardship because people often can’t work or find a job afterwards. Aneurysms in the brain may run in families, and most stroke researchers agree that there is a strong genetic component in their development. We want to look for genes and other environmental factors (e.g. high blood pressure, smoking) that cause aneurysms to develop and rupture, and also how these factors affect prognosis after SAH.
The research will help us understand genetic and environmental factors that influence aneurysm development and rupture, and prognosis after SAH. Aneurysms in the brain are quite common, affecting about 5% of the population. However, only a tiny proportion will rupture and cause SAH. To try to prevent SAH, we urgently need ways to identify the small number of people at highest risk. If we identify genes that are linked to aneurysm rupture it should be possible to test for them in people with an aneurysm that has not yet ruptured - for example one picked up on brain scanning. People with unruptured aneurysms could then be given better advice about whether they should have their aneurysm treated, either by an operation or using special coils delivered through a groin artery. Our study could save many younger people from suffering the devastating consequences of SAH-related stroke, and lead to a better understanding of factors affecting prognosis – which should help us develop more effective treatments for SAH.