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The Stroke Prevention Research Unit was founded in 2000 by Professor Peter Rothwell with initial funding from the MRC and the Stroke Association. Now comprising about 30 researchers and support staff, the centre is regarded as one of the most productive stroke research groups in the world. 

Researchers have published over 200 papers during the last 10-years, including 30 papers in the Lancet or Lancet Neurology, and 25 mainly clinical fellows have worked towards doctorates. Our aim is to do research that increases understanding of the causes of cerebrovascular disease and improves the prevention of stroke in routine clinical practice – using a broad range of research techniques.


The research philosophy is based on four core beliefs:

  1. Rigorous clinical observation provides crucial insights into the causes of disease and modifiers of outcome which can be 'back-translated' to inform lab-based studies of the molecular basis of disease
  2. Better phenotyping of stroke will improve prevention and facilitate understanding of aetiology
  3. Better prognostication generally leads to more effective targeting of preventive treatment
  4. Better understanding of the few major risk factors that are known to account for the majority of stroke will yield greater dividends than the elucidation of many other 'novel' but relatively unimportant risk factors

The eight main areas of research in the first ten years have been:

  • Pathology, prognosis and treatment of carotid stenosis
  • Understanding of the link between blood pressure and risks of stroke and dementia
  • Improve secondary prevention of stroke after a TIA (transient ischaemic attack) or minor stroke
  • Improving phenotyping and prevention of stroke by more effective brain and vascular imaging
  • Biomarkers and genetics of ischaemic stroke and vascular cognitive impairment
  • Effects of aspirin on risk of vascular and non-vascular disease
  • Monitoring time-trends in incidence and outcome of stroke, coronary events and other vascular diseases
  • Reliable determination of the effects of treatments, including randomized trials, systematic reviews, developing methods to better target treatments at individuals and alternatives to randomized trials.


Our research has led to major changes in clinical practice and clinical guidelines on multiple aspects of primary and secondary prevention of stroke, including:

  • Prevention of stroke in patients with recently symptomatic carotid stenosis
  • Urgency of assessment and investigation of patients with TIA and minor stroke
  • Effective secondary prevention after TIA and minor stroke
  • Diagnosis and treatment of hypertension in prevention of stroke

Current work on risk factors for vascular dementia and on the long-term effects of aspirin on non-vascular disease will also change practice, and work on use of risk models to better target treatments at individuals has had a major impact on thinking about the application of the results of research in routine clinical practice.