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Local startup working on blood test to detect brain aneurysms


An aneurysm is essentially a bubble on a blood vessel. If it ruptures, about 40 percent of those people die. A local startup corporation is working on a simple blood test to detect these health threats in the brain.

Jeff Harvey takes medical problems personally, both with a grandson with Duchenne muscular dystrophy and a wife who died from an aneurysm.

For muscular dystrophy, he helped finance a drug that for treating those with the disease. The drug is about to start human testing.

After his wife died 18 years ago, he started giving to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation. Then he got together with University at Buffalo researchers, led by Hui Meng, who were working on aneurysms. Together they set up Neurovascular Diagnostics.

Chief Financial Officer Harvey says aneurysms are a much more serious health problem than most people would understand.

"What people don't realize is 1-in-50 people walking around have a brain aneurysm and don't know it," Harvey says, "and the only way you could tell that you had one is you have to get an MRI or CAT scan. Other than that, most people walking around don't have any symptoms. They wouldn't know if they had one."

After a rupture of an aneurysm in the brain, around 15 percent die before reaching a hospital. Even if the patient makes it to the hospital and can be treated, around two-thirds of survivors are disabled in some way.

The new company is trying out a blood test with biomarkers that would identify a person at risk of an aneurysm. The researchers are working with blood samples from Buffalo General Hospital patients who have suffered an aneurysm, funded by a $224,000 National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Research grant.

Credit University at Buffalo
Hui Meng is leading University at Buffalo researchers.

"So we have those samples and now we're just analyzing them," he says. "We need to get more samples from all around the country in order to make this thing more viable, but we  actually are getting blood samples from people that have aneurysms."

Harvey says the test can trigger further testing and care which would be covered.

"As we progress with this, we'll be able to say with a certain percentage assurance that you probably have a brain aneurysm," Harvey says. "You, therefore, now you need to go and get scanned so that you can find out exactly where it is and what we can do to treat it."

Harvey says aneurysms are possibly genetic and that is why he eventually wants his children tested.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.