10:31am Sunday 12 July 2020

Women with elevated levels of a protein in their blood may be at a higher risk of ischemic stroke

Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital identified a link between elevated levels of beta-2 microglobulin, a protein found on the surface of many cells, and an increased risk of ischemic stroke among women. Their findings are published in the May 10, 2017, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Rist and colleagues examined blood samples from women enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study who provided blood samples between 1989 and 1990, had an average age of 61 and had no history of stroke or cancer. The women submitted answers to questionnaires about their lifestyle and medical history every two years. Specfically, researchers measured the protein levles of 473 study participants who later had an ischemic stroke as well as 473 participants of the same age who did not have a stroke.

Researchers found that participants who later had an ischemic stroke had higher levels of beta-2 microglobulin than those who did not have a stroke. The average level of the protein was 1.86 milligrams per liter in those who later experienced an ischemic strokes, compared to 1.80 mg/L in those who did not have a stroke. Researchers also found that  women with protein levels in the top quartile had the highest risk of stroke.

Researchers controlled for other risk factors for stroke, including smoking or hormone therapy use, exercise, high blood pressure and diabetes.  The strokes occurred an average of nine years after the start of the study.

“Given the high rate of disability from stroke, it is important to identify people who may be at higher risk of this disease. This protein could be a marker that might help us in the fight against stroke,” said Rist. “Further studies are needed to determine if beta-2 microglobulin levels can be modified through lifestyle changes.”

Researchers note that the study was conducted primarily with white women and that they were not able to examine any changes in protein levels.

The National Institutes of Health supported the Nurses’ Health Study, and support research by Rist and other researchers on this project.(CA186107, R01 CA49449, and R01 HL088521 for NIH.)  Rist is funded by K01 HL128791. Monik Jiménez is funded by K01 HL124391.

Paper cited: Rist, et al. “Prospective association between b2-microglobulin levels and ischemic stroke risk among women.” Neurology, DOI:10.1212/WNL.0000000000004006

Brigham and Women’s Hospital



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