World first study seeks to unlock a rare cause of young stroke

A Melbourne researcher will lead the way internationally by investigating the causes of stroke in younger people.

Professor Vincent Thijs from the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health will investigate the prevalence of the rare brain disorder Cerebral Amyloid Angiopathy (CAA) in young stroke survivors. CAA causes bleeds on the brain and is more commonly associated with dementia and older people.

The screening will take place at four hospitals in Melbourne in stroke patients under the age of 60.

Professor Thijs will carry out this important research after being awarded the first Gavin Paul Bennier Memorial Grant of $240,000 (over three years) as part of the Stroke Foundation’s 2019 Research Grant Program.

Professor Thijs said stroke too often went unexplained in younger people.

“The uncertainty is devastating for the individual and their family because they do not know if a stroke will happen again,” Prof Thijs said.

“I am hoping the SEARCH project (Screening for Early onset Amyloid Related Cerebral Haemorrhage) will provide valuable insights into the poorly recognised condition of CAA, which may be the cause of more unexplained strokes than we realise.

“The outcome will tell us whether there needs to be a greater focus on CAA, which is currently untreatable, in the future.”

Around 20 strokes a day impact young Australians (under 65) and international evidence shows stroke’s incidence among younger people is on the increase.

Stroke Foundation Research Advisory Committee Chair Professor Amanda Thrift said too many Australians continue to be devastated by stroke.

“As well as the fear of recurrent stroke, younger stroke survivors are left with many complex challenges that are unique to their age and stage of life. These include re-learning basic skills, changing family dynamics, returning to work and restricted mobility and independence,” Prof Thrift said.

“It is hoped the SEARCH project will unlock some much-needed answers in the early diagnosis of CAA.”

The Gavin Paul Bennier Memorial Grant has been offered on behalf of the Bennier family who established a fund in their son’s honour after he tragically lost his life to stroke in 2017 at the age of 45.

Professor Thijs has thanked the Bennier family and supporters of the grant.

“Given CAA is a rare condition, the project would not have been possible without their generosity,” he said.

Professor Thijs is one of six researchers to be awarded a share of almost $500,000 through the 2019 Stroke Foundation research grants round. Information on other recipients here.

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