New study into childhood stroke launched | Action Medical Research

New study into childhood stroke launched

5 August 2009

Hundreds of children have strokes every year1 and childhood stroke is one of the top ten causes of childhood death2

A new study that could help the hundreds of children who have strokes each year in the UK has started, funded by leading children’s charity, Action Medical Research. The study aims to develop a blood test to help identify children who are at risk of further strokes, and will also investigate the role of inflammation or injury to blood vessels in causing stroke.

A stroke is a brain attack and happens when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off. Without a blood supply, brain cells can be damaged or destroyed and won’t be able to do their job.3  Approximately half of the children in the UK who have a stroke each year have an underlying medical condition that increases their risk of having another stroke for example, sickle cell anaemia or a heart problem. The other half are apparently healthy, and the stroke may result from problems with blood clotting or infection; it can also be a rare effect of chickenpox.4 Strokes can occur in newborn babies and up to one in five children who have had a stroke will have further strokes.2

The study being carried out at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Trust (GOSH) and the UCL Institute of Child Health (ICH), will involve 60 children who have had strokes, aged from 16 months to 16. Blood samples will be taken from the children, and will be analysed for the presence of markers, found in the blood when blood vessels in the brain are damaged. The levels of these markers could help to predict which children are likely to have further strokes.

Dr Despina Eleftheriou, the lead researcher and a Clinical Fellow at the ICH and GOSH, was awarded a Research Training Fellowship grant from Action Medical Research and comments: “I was prompted to start this project while working at Great Ormond Street Hospital and seeing so many young children having further strokes without being able to predict the likelihood of this happening. I hope that by the end of the study, we will have developed a blood test to help us identify which children are at greatest risk of further strokes and also have a better understanding of the role of inflammation in causing stroke.”

Commenting, Dr Yolande Harley, Deputy Director of Research at Action Medical Research: “Stroke in children can be devastating for both the children and their families. Action Medical Research is committed to funding this groundbreaking research that could lead to the development of blood tests that could predict which children are at greater risk of further strokes so steps can be taken to help prevent them from happening.”

Stroke results in long-term problems in two-thirds of survivors including movement or learning difficulties, or other health problems.5 The effects of a stroke are distressing for both the child and their families as in the long term, it can lead to difficulties with movement, emotion and behaviour.

The study, which starts in August 2009, is scheduled to be completed in three years.

Notes to editors:

For further information please contact:

Tola Awogbamiye at Action Medical Research
Tel: 01403 327 493

References: 1. Pappachan J, Kirkham FJ. Cerebrovascular disease and stroke; Arch. Dis. Child.2008;93;890-898
2. Royal College of Physicians. Stroke in childhood. Clinical guidelines for diagnosis, management and rehabilitation. Prepared by the Paediatric Stroke Working Group November 2004
3. The Stroke Association website -
4. Stroke in children. Booklet produced by Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Trust -
5. Ganesan V. Pediatric stroke guidelines: where will these take future research and treatment options for childhood stroke? Expert Rev Neurother 2009; 9(5):639-48.

Action Medical Research is a leading, national medical research charity. For nearly 60 years we have been instrumental in significant medical breakthroughs including the development of the UK polio vaccine and ultrasound scanning in pregnancy. Our research helps babies and children affected by disease and disability. We are currently funding research into serious diseases and conditions, including meningitis, pneumonia, cerebral palsy and inflammatory bowel disease.

Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Trust is the leading centre in the UK for paediatric neurosciences and is the country’s leading centre for treating sick children, with the widest range of specialists under one roof. With the UCL Institute of Child Health, it is the largest centre for paediatric research outside the US and plays a key role in training children’s health specialists for the future.

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