Plaque buildup in the arteries is a major risk factor for strokes and heart attack, but some plaques are far more dangerous than others.
The problem is there is no good way to distinguish relatively benign plaque on artery walls from plaque that will break off and cause harm, but that may soon change.
Researchers in Italy say they have identified a genetic “signature” seen in unstable plaque from patients who had a stroke, but not in plaque that is not likely to rupture.
If the findings from the small study are confirmed, the discovery could lead to better ways to identify people with clogged arteries at risk for stroke and even new treatments to prevent and treat artery disease.
The study was reported today in the online issue of the American Heart Association journal Stroke.