News Release

BU Neurologist awarded NIH grant to study cerebral small vessel disease

Findings could help prevent stroke and dementia

Grant and Award Announcement

Boston University School of Medicine

(Boston)—Jose Rafael Romero, MD, associate professor of neurology at Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine, has been awarded a $453,750 National Institutes of Health (NIH) R-21 grant for his research study, “Longitudinal Risk Factor Changes and Early Recognition of Cerebral Small Vessel Disease.” This work will be performed in collaboration with co-investigators Sariq Mohammed, PhD and Serkalem Demissie, PhD from the Biostatistics Department at Boston University School of Public Health.

Cerebral small vessel disease (CSVD) is an umbrella term for a variety of conditions resulting from damage to small blood vessels in the brain. The cerebral small vessels are key for neuronal function, and when high burden of markers of CSVD are detected on brain MRI, they signal increased risk of adverse neurological outcomes such as stroke and dementia. MRI markers of CSVD may be detectable years to decades before the occurrence of clinical outcomes thus offering an opportunity for prevention.

Romero and his team will use novel functional data analysis applications to relate lifelong vascular risk factor data to CSVD to understand critical exposure durations that should prompt assessment of CSVD burden and life stage when it could be considered. “We will also assess prediction of stroke, Alzheimer’s dementia and other related dementias using a total T-CSVD score. Findings in our proposal could lead to early assessment of CSVD burden for the prevention of stroke and dementia,” says Romero, who also is a Framingham Heart Study investigator.


Romero’s research interests focus on the study of cerebrovascular disease in subclinical stages, prevention of stroke, cognitive impairment and dementia and use of neuroimaging in the epidemiological study of cerebrovascular disease. Much of his current work centers on the epidemiological study of brain MRI markers of cerebral small vessel disease, their determinants and clinical consequences. As a board-certified neurologist and vascular neurologist, his clinical interests are in the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of patients with stroke, with particular emphasis in underrepresented racial and ethnic groups.

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