By JOSH BAKERAssociated PressBy TIM BROWNAssociated PressPublished July 03, 2016 11:52:21For nearly six years, doctors at a northern California hospital have been searching for clues about the brain changes that could have led to a stroke.
Now, a study suggests those changes may be linked to a condition known as lone star neurodegenerative disease.
The results of a study published in the American Journal of Neurology show a group of patients with brain lesions in the form of solitary star neurologic syndrome, or SNS, were at increased risk for developing strokes, even when they had not suffered brain damage from SNS.
“I don’t think we’re ever going to know exactly what causes this disease,” said Dr. Paul Kostelnik, the senior author of the study.
The finding is likely to further increase the focus of neurologists, neurologists and neurosurgeons in trying to find a treatment for solitary star.
Kostelnick, who also is the head of the Neurosurgery and Neurosciences Institute at Stanford University, said the study could be a starting point for more detailed studies.
“It’s a big step forward in understanding solitary star,” he said.SNS is a rare, genetic condition that can lead to brain damage and loss of function in people who have already had a stroke or died of a heart attack.
The condition affects about one in every 2,000 people, making it difficult to accurately diagnose.
It can occur as a complication of stroke, including sudden death, but in rare cases, it can lead directly to death, including a stroke that causes a brain tumor.
Symptoms may include:The study found the SNS patients had a more elevated level of inflammation and less protein levels in the brain.
The brain also had less blood flowing to parts of the brain, including the cortex, which is responsible for forming new neurons.
Sudden brain death in the Sns patients also was associated with an increased risk of having a stroke later in life.
“The findings suggest that there’s a more specific cause of these abnormalities in solitary star than is commonly thought,” Kostelski said.
“There’s evidence that the immune system can affect the brain’s integrity, which can affect what happens in the body.
This study supports that notion.”
Dr. John Fung, the lead author of a paper that analyzed the data, said that while solitary star is usually treated with drugs, his study was the first to examine the molecular changes that occur in the patients’ brains.
He said the results also suggested a possible role for a protein called neuropeptide Y, which has been linked to the symptoms of SNS and has been shown to be involved in the development of the disease.
“What we’ve shown is that this protein, which’s been implicated in the inflammation in the brains, actually has a very direct effect on inflammation in this population,” Fung said.
“So, we’re seeing that inflammation is the problem.”
Fung said the findings could also help in diagnosing the disease in those with other brain conditions.
“When we’re looking at other diseases like stroke or Alzheimer’s, for example, we might look for inflammation, which may be an important biomarker for these diseases,” he told ABCNews.com.
Kustelnik said SNS is caused by a genetic mutation that was found in only one out of every 5,000 individuals.
The mutation causes the cells of the central nervous system to be more susceptible to inflammation, and in this case, that may lead to a more severe stroke, he said, adding that the results are promising.
“This study suggests that there are probably a number of genes involved in SNS that are implicated in brain injury, and it’s very exciting that we can use this information to improve our understanding of this disease.”
Kostelsky said the new results are consistent with previous work, including one earlier study that showed the disease is more common in people with more severe strokes.
“We are seeing more cases of SNA with the severity of stroke,” he added.
“And it’s a much more common condition in people of color, who are overrepresented in this particular population.”
Dr Michael O’Brien, an expert in neurology and head trauma at Vanderbilt University, is one of the authors of the paper and said the changes were not surprising.
“They’re not surprising at all, because we’ve seen this for many, many years,” he explained.
The study, he added, is not conclusive in determining the cause of SNCD.
“But it does show that there is an increase in inflammatory and neuropeptic proteins in the cortex,” he noted.
“In addition, we’ve found that people with SNCDs are more likely to have a stroke, and that suggests that this may be related to the inflammatory proteins.”
Fuk said the brain inflammation in SNCDS patients