Stroke is a complex neurological syndrome that can be divided into two main types: ischemic, which occurs when there's a sudden decrease in blood flow to regions of the brain, and hemorrhagic, which occurs when there's abnormal bleeding in the brain.

Ischemic strokes, which are the most common type of stroke, can be subdivided by whether the blockage occurs in a large artery or small artery (large/small-vessel occlusive disease) or if an embolus travels from the heart to lodge in a cerebral blood vessel (cardiogenic stroke).

This heterogenic phenotype associated with stroke is indicative of the synergistic effects of genetic and environmental determinants. Smoking, or being the first-degree relative of someone who has had a stroke, is reported to independently almost double the risk of ischemic stroke, supporting the hypothesis that stroke is a result of an intricate interplay between the genes and environment.

The mission of our laboratory is to identify those genetic factors and elucidate their role in the risk of vascular disease.

Led by principal investigator Owen A. Ross, Ph.D., the Stroke and Vascular Disease Laboratory has five main research projects:

  • Exploring Genetic Factors in Ischemic Stroke. This study is designed to establish the joint effects of smoking and genetics to help identify people at risk and to help with preventive diagnosis and treatment. Read more.
  • Familial Stroke Studies. This project involves mapping of stroke-related genes by studying families with a history of stroke. Read more.
  • Investigation of the Familial CADASIL Gene NOTCH3 in Ischemic Stroke. In this project, we're exploring the relationship among NOTCH3 genetic variants that we hypothesize to increase susceptibility to ischemic stroke. Read more.
  • Variations of Mitochondrial DNA: Individualizing the Ischemic Stroke Genome. In this project, we're working to identify variation within the mtDNA genome that associates with ischemic stroke. Read more.
  • Genetic Factors in Vascular Dementia. In this project, we're examining tissue to help identify gene expression and genetic variants that increase the risk of vascular dementia. Read more.

Our lab ultimately hopes to help advance individualized medicine in disease, including refining patient diagnosis, identifying biomarkers and developing targeted drugs.

About Dr. Ross

To help achieve his lab's goals, Dr. Ross has collaborated with researchers in neurology and neuroscience in more than 20 countries. He is part of a team of internationally recognized researchers and clinicians with specialty training in Parkinson's disease and movement disorders supported by the American Parkinson Disease Association.

In addition to leading the Stroke and Vascular Disease Lab, Dr. Ross is an associate professor of neuroscience at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science in Jacksonville, Florida, and has published hundreds of research articles on stroke, vascular disease, dementia, Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.