White matter injury in ischemic stroke

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Stroke is one of the major causes of disability and mortality worldwide. It is well known that ischemic stroke can cause gray matter injury. However, stroke also elicits profound white matter injury, a risk factor for higher stroke incidence and poor neurological outcomes. The majority of damage caused by stroke is located in subcortical regions and, remarkably, white matter occupies nearly half of the average infarct volume. Indeed, white matter is exquisitely vulnerable to ischemia and is often injured more severely than gray matter. Clinical symptoms related to white matter injury include cognitive dysfunction, emotional disorders, sensorimotor impairments, as well as urinary incontinence and pain, all of which are closely associated with destruction and remodeling of white matter connectivity. White matter injury can be noninvasively detected by MRI, which provides a three-dimensional assessment of its morphology, metabolism, and function. There is an urgent need for novel white matter therapies, as currently available strategies are limited to preclinical animal studies. Optimal protection against ischemic stroke will need to encompass the fortification of both gray and white matter. In this review, we discuss white matter injury after ischemic stroke, focusing on clinical features and tools, such as imaging, manifestation, and potential treatments. We also briefly discuss the pathophysiology of WMI and future research directions.

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