In the doctor’s office of the future, a simple blood test might gauge a patient’s odds of suffering a stroke someday, new research suggests.
A team of Canadian researchers measured levels of blood-borne chemical signals, or “biomarkers,” in the blood of more than 3,200 people.
The patients averaged 61 years of age and were tracked for an average of nine years. During that time, 98 of them did suffer a stroke.
Elevated levels of four of the biomarkers were linked with increased stroke risk, the team reported in the Aug. 24 online edition of the journal Neurology.
High blood levels of the chemical homocysteine indicated a 32 percent higher risk compared to people with the lowest levels, the researchers found. And high levels of three other biomarkers — vascular endothelial growth factor, C-reactive protein, and tumor necrosis factor receptor 2 — also indicated a similar heightening of stroke risk, the investigators said.
“Identifying people who are at risk for stroke can help us determine who would benefit most from existing or new therapies to prevent stroke,” study lead author Dr. Ashkan Shoamanesh, of McMaster University in Ontario, said in a journal news release.
Two cardiologists agreed the idea has merit.
“This study is important because it may help to identify patients at high risk for future stroke and implement preventive measures beforehand, and not in reaction to a stroke,” said Dr. Akira Todo, who directs the Stroke Program at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, N.Y.
Dr. Andrew Rogove is medical director of stroke at Southside Hospital in Bay Shore, N.Y. He called the work “both interesting and important.”
“Stroke affects nearly 800,000 Americans each year, and it is the fifth leading cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the United States,” he noted.
“If there were more biomarkers available to identify people at risk of stroke, this would invariably lead to prevention therapies, to lower the number of stroke victims,” Rogove said.
Still, Shoamanesh cautioned that this research is still in its early days, and more work on the blood test is needed.
“Our study does not provide evidence that these markers are validated well enough to be implemented in clinical practice,” he said.