MINNEAPOLIS – New research suggests the blood may hold clues to whether post-menopausal women may be at an increased risk for areas of vascular brain damage that can potentially lead to memory problems and possibly increased risk of stroke. Research published in the February, 13, 2013, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, shows that fragments of platelets, elements in the blood that activate clotting, can form so-called thrombogenic microvesicles, may contribute to areas of brain damage called white matter hyperintensities.
The study involved 95 women with an average age of 53 who had recently gone through menopause. The women had MRI scans taken of their brains at the start of the study. They then received a placebo, oral hormone therapy or the hormone skin patch. They had MRIs periodically over the next four years.
Over the course of the study, women who had higher levels of thrombogenic microvesicles, or the activated clotting elements, were more likely to have more white matter hyperintensities, which may affect future memory function.
“This study suggests that these microvesicles in the blood may contribute to the development of white matter hyperintensities in women who have recently gone through menopause,” said study author Kejal Kantarci, MD, of the Mayo Clinic and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. “Preventing the platelets from developing these microvesicles could be a way to stop the progression of white matter hyperintensities in the brain.” All of the women had white matter hyperintensities at the start of the study. The amount increased by an average of 63 mm3 at 18 months, 122 mm3 at three years and 155 mm3 at four years. The progress of white matter hyperintensity volume was associated with microvesicle burden at the start of the study.
The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health, Aurora Foundation and Mayo Foundation.
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