Cerebral small vessel disease (SVD) is an important cause of stroke and cognitive impairment among the elderly and is a more frequent cause of stroke in Asia than in the US or Europe. Although traditional risk factors such as hypertension or diabetes mellitus are important in the development of cerebral SVD, the exact pathogenesis is still uncertain. Both, twin and family history studies suggest heritability of sporadic cerebral SVD, while the candidate gene study and the genome-wide association study (GWAS) are mainly used in genetic research. Robust associations between the candidate genes and occurrence of various features of sporadic cerebral SVD, such as lacunar infarction, intracerebral hemorrhage, or white matter hyperintensities, have not yet been elucidated. GWAS, a relatively new technique, overcomes several shortcomings of previous genetic techniques, enabling the detection of several important genetic loci associated with cerebral SVD. In addition to the more common, sporadic cerebral SVD, several single-gene disorders causing cerebral SVD have been identified. The number of reported cases is increasing as the clinical features become clear and diagnostic examinations are more readily available. These include cerebral autosomal dominant arteriopathy with subcortical infarcts and leukoencephalopathy, cerebral autosomal recessive arteriopathy with subcortical infarcts and leukoencephalopathy, COL4A1-related cerebral SVD, autosomal dominant retinal vasculopathy with cerebral leukodystrophy, and Fabry disease. These rare single-gene disorders are expected to play a crucial role in our understanding of cerebral SVD pathogenesis by providing animal models for the identification of cellular, molecular, and biochemical changes underlying cerebral small vessel damage.
Keywords: CADASIL; Cerebral small vessel diseases; Fabry disease; Genetic association study; Genome-wide association study.