Researchers identified a new gene called FOXF2 that increases the risk of having a stroke due to small vessel disease in the brain. The small vessel disease not only causes stroke but is also a major contributor to the  risk of dementia and also associated with gait problems and depression.

The study may help researchers better understand, treat and prevent ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke and perhaps Alzheimer's disease and other dementias.

Previous studies have looked mainly at genes causing atherosclerosis and genes affecting the function of platelets and clotting processes as risk factors for ischemic stroke –  clot obstructing blood flow to the brain. A different set of genes has been associated with hemorrhagic stroke –  bleeding into the brain.

"Our research has identified a gene affecting another type of ischemic stroke, due to small vessel disease and also suggests some genes may be associated with both ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke and may act through a novel pathway affecting pericytes –  a type of cell in the wall of small arteries and capillaries," said Sudha Seshadri from Boston University Medical Center in US.

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