UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology


Prestigious stroke program grant awarded

7 January 2010

David Werring (Department of Brain Repair and Rehabilitation, Stroke Research Group) has been awarded a £940,000 joint program grant from the Stroke Association and British Heart Foundation after a rigorous competition.  The funding will support a 5-year program of stroke brain imaging and genetic research.

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The team will try to find new ways to predict the risk of intracranial bleeding associated with blood thinning drugs (e.g. warfarin). These are commonly prescribed after stroke due to a blood clot from the heart caused by an abnormal rhythm (atrial fibrillation). New types of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, and testing for genetic factors that affect the fragility of brain blood vessels, will be developed.

David explains: “Although blood thinning (anticoagulant) drugs after ischaemic stroke due to atrial fibrillation are very effective, a small minority of patients are at risk of devastating brain haemorrhage.   In some cases it is very hard to know the best thing to do – on the one hand there is a high risk of recurrent blood clots to the brain, on the other - a danger of bleeding. We want to identify those at highest risk of bleeding using special MRI techniques to detect microbleeds (tiny leaks from blood vessels that show up on brain scans as little black dots).

Microbleeds are now quite commonly found in our stroke patients, but we don’t yet know their full significance. In patients with a lot of microbleeds (especially near the brain surface), anticoagulant drugs might cause a life-threatening large haemorrhage. If this theory is correct, screening for microbleeds could help target the right anticoagulant treatment to the right patients, making them much safer to use.”