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Stroke genetics: prospects for personalized medicine

Hugh S Markus

Author Affiliations

Stroke and Dementia Research Centre, St. Georges University of London, London, UK

BMC Medicine 2012, 10:113  doi:10.1186/1741-7015-10-113

Published: 27 September 2012


Epidemiologic evidence supports a genetic predisposition to stroke. Recent advances, primarily using the genome-wide association study approach, are transforming what we know about the genetics of multifactorial stroke, and are identifying novel stroke genes. The current findings are consistent with different stroke subtypes having different genetic architecture. These discoveries may identify novel pathways involved in stroke pathogenesis, and suggest new treatment approaches. However, the already identified genetic variants explain only a small proportion of overall stroke risk, and therefore are not currently useful in predicting risk for the individual patient. Such risk prediction may become a reality as identification of a greater number of stroke risk variants that explain the majority of genetic risk proceeds, and perhaps when information on rare variants, identified by whole-genome sequencing, is also incorporated into risk algorithms. Pharmacogenomics may offer the potential for earlier implementation of 'personalized genetic' medicine. Genetic variants affecting clopidogrel and warfarin metabolism may identify non-responders and reduce side-effects, but these approaches have not yet been widely adopted in clinical practice.