Stroke is a common multi factorial cerebrovascular disorder with a large impact on global health. It is a disorder primarily associated with old age but environmental factors, lifestyle choices and medical history are all important for the risk of developing the disorder. It is also known that heritability is important for predisposition to the disorder. The aim of this work has been to identify genetic variations that increase the risk of being affected by stroke in the population of northern Sweden, a population well apt for genetic studies due to well kept church and medical records together with limited genetic diversity.
In the first paper we used linkage analysis in families with early onset of stroke. By this approach we identified a region on chromosome 5q to be linked to an increased risk of developing stroke, a region previously identified as a susceptibility locus for stroke in the Icelandic population. In the second study we used genealogy to identify common ancestry and thereby identify common susceptibility to stroke. The seven families we connected showed significant linkage to the chromosome 9q31-33 region and four of the families shared a common haplotype over 2.1 megabases. In the third manuscript we investigated sequence variation of two candidate genes, TNFSF15 and TLR4. Sequencing of the TLR4 gene revealed previously identified variations in affected individuals from two of the families. Further SNP analysis showed five separate haplotypes among the investigated families and four haplotypes for TNFSF15. However none of these co-segregated with stroke among the investigated families. In the final paper we used a case-control stroke cohort to ascertain association for genetic variation in five genes and genetic regions previously suggested to be linked with stroke. Initial analyses showed association for the 9p21 chromosomal region and a variant in Factor 5 that showed protection against stroke, but after adjustments for common risk factors for stroke, the findings were no longer significant.
In conclusion, by studying selected families we have been able to show linkage to two chromosomal regions, 5q and 9q31-33, that indicate genetic predisposition for developing stroke. Further we have shown that family based studies are still an important tool in deciphering the underlying mechanisms for complex disease.