New research from the School of Medicine suggests a gene variation may play a key role in risk of stroke.
The gene discovery comes as part of an investigation into how the body converts the enzyme methionine into the amino acid homocysteine. While researchers have previously found evidence to link increased levels of homocysteine to stroke, cancer and dementia, among other diseases, it’s been unclear why some people produce elevated levels of the amino acid.
The new research sheds light on the question, explained postdoctoral fellow Stephen R. Williams, PhD. The researchers believe that it may be possible to reduce stroke risk by targeting the methionine conversion process with drugs before the homocysteine is created.
Also, as part of their work, the UVA researchers have developed a test that can predict which people are at risk for producing too much homocysteine.
UVA researcher Brad Worrall, MD, noted that the discovery could have far-reaching implications.
“This could potentially be the key to understanding how the gene for this enzyme and this enzyme regulate gene expression much more broadly,” Worrall said. “This might not only be important for the pathogenesis of stroke and cardiovascular diseases but potentially other diseases as well.”