Southern 'stroke belt' study initiates nationwide study

Burlington, Vt. -- A five-year study that will examine possible causes for the higher incidence of stroke in southern states and in African-Americans compared to whites will rely on cardiovascular risk factor specialists at the University of Vermont (UVM) College of Medicine for analyses of blood from an estimated 30,000 people. On Wednesday, the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), which is leading the study, announced receipt of a $28 million National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke grant to conduct the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke - or REGARDS - study.

The study aims to determine why African Americans have a 50 percent higher rate of stroke death compared to whites and why stroke incidence is higher in the southeast compared to the rest of the country. Based on their analysis of blood samples, UVM scientists will be helping to identify which known risk factors for stroke - and maybe some not-yet-known factors - are consistent among stroke victims or are unique to African Americans compared to whites.

UVM is expertly equipped to handle what Mary Cushman, M.D., UVM associate professor of medicine and pathology, estimates could be as many as 130 blood samples per day once the study is up and running at full capacity. Cushman, who will lead the central laboratory for the REGARDS study, and her colleagues at UVM's Laboratory for Clinical Biochemistry Research currently function as the central analysis lab for such large-scale, national studies as the National Institutes of Health-funded Multi-Ethnic Study on Atherosclerosis, which is examining risk factors for atherosclerosis or "hardening of the arteries," and Cardiovascular Health Study, which is looking at risk factors for heart disease and stroke in older Americans.

"What's especially wonderful about the REGARDS study is that it will create a biological specimen bank that will provide the foundation for detailed

Contact: Jennifer Nachbur
University of Vermont

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