Dr. Brad Worrall ’78 co-authors landmark study on stroke risk in Black patients
In a groundbreaking new study, published in the journal Stroke, Dr. Brad Worrall ’78 and an international team of scientists have identified a key gene variant that may be linked to Black communities’ higher risk of stroke.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the risk of having a stroke is nearly twice as high for Black people as for their white counterparts. Strokes within this population are also significantly more likely to be fatal, but despite these well-known risks, most genetic studies on stroke focus on people of European descent.
The new study, co-author Dr. Worrall says, marks an important step toward closing that “substantial gap.”
Quoted in Medical News Today and the Jacksonville Free Press, he says, “These findings will provide greater insight into ethnic-specific and global risk factors to reduce the second leading cause of death worldwide.”
In the new report, published this summer, Dr. Worrall and his colleagues conducted the largest stroke genome-wide study on Black patients to date. They analyzed data from 13 previous studies and more than 22,000 Black participants and found that a specific gene variant (a kind of “typo” made on the cellular level) may relate to the population’s high risk of stroke.
This gene variant has also been linked to diabetes and coronary artery disease, the most common form of heart disease. Dr. Worrall and his team further identified 29 other gene variants with possible links to stroke in Black patients, though the evidence was less compelling.
“Our study identified novel associations for stroke that might not otherwise be detected in primarily European cohort studies,” the authors wrote. “Collectively, this highlights the critical nature and importance of genetic studies in a more diverse population with a high stroke burden, such as was the case in this study.”
In addition to teaching neurology and public health sciences at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, Dr. Worrall is division chief of vascular neurology at UVA, vice-chair for research in the neurology department, and a founding member of the International Stroke Genetics Consortium. He also serves as the deputy editor for editorial education for the journal Neurology. His research centers on mechanisms, biomarkers, and risk factors for cerebrovascular disease.