Expatriate health insurance customers may soon be able to discover if they are at an elevated risk of suffering from large artery ischemic stroke, following the discovery of a genetic variant that is linked to the condition.
Researchers from Oxford University and St George's, University of London worked alongside scientists from Australia, Europe and America in the study and discovered a difference in a gene called HDAC9 can impact a person's chance of suffering from this kind of condition.
An alteration in this genetic structure occurs on around ten per cent of all human chromosomes and those who have two copies of the variant – inheriting one from their mother and one from their father – have almost twice the risk of stroke as those without the marker in their genes.
The investigation was published online in Nature Genetics and the discovery could potentially enable new and innovative treatments.
Large artery ischemic stroke accounts for more than one-third of all strokes and occurs when a blockage occurs in one of the large blood vessels leading to the brain.
It was also discovered that the genetic variant does not appear to impact the risk of people suffering other varieties of the ailment, such as haemorrhagic stroke, when there is bleeding within the brain.
"Our study shows that the different subtypes of stroke could involve quite different genetic mechanisms. This is really fascinating, and if it holds up more generally, will move us closer to personalised medicine, where treatments and preventions can be tailored more precisely to individual patients," said Professor Peter Donnelly, co-leader of the study and director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics in the University of Oxford.
Strokes are the second leading cause of deaths globally, accounting for six million fatal incidents every year, or more than one in ten deaths of all ages.
In developed nations, it is also a major factor in chronic disability and as a population ages, the impact this condition has on human wellbeing is likely to become even more significant.
The UK's National Health Service stated common symptoms of stroke include a dropping or drooping face, difficulty lifting arms and slurred or garbled speech.
Medical assistance must be sought immediately if these signs become apparent, it stressed.