New research published in Stroke has linked the risk of suffering a stroke to the presence of a certain type of antibody in the immune system. According to the study, researchers may now be able to develop a vaccine that can mobilize the body's own defence against arteriosclerosis and stroke.

The study compared 227 individuals who had suffered stroke over a 13-year period with 445 sex and age-matched controls. After controlling for other risk factors (age, sex, smoking habits, cholesterol levels, diabetes, BMI and blood pressure), they were able to show that low levels (below 30 per cent of average) of PC antibodies correlated with a higher risk of stroke, which in women meant an almost three-fold increase.

The researchers have now advanced the hypothesis that low levels of natural PC antibodies, which can be a condition of a poor immune system – contribute to the development of arteriosclerosis and its consequences, which include stroke.

"We're now examining the possibility of developing new immunological treatments for arteriosclerosis and stroke, either in the form of a vaccine to stimulate the immune defence or immunisation through the injection of antibodies," says  co-author Professor Johan Frostegård of the Karolinska Institutet.

Citation: Fiskesund et al., 'Low levels of antibodies against phosphorylcholine predict development of stroke in a population based study from Northern Sweden', Stroke, February 2010; doi: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.109.558742