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Researchers studying blood tests to find brain aneurysms

Douglas Levere / University at Buffalo
(l to r) Neurovascular Diagnostics co-founders Jeff Harvey, Hui Meng and Vincent Tutino.

Around 30,000 times a year, a blood vessel in an American's brain ruptures. The result is usually death or serious bodily impairment. A University at Buffalo-based research team is testing a blood test that could screen brains for aneurysms.

Sometimes doctors looking for another health problem trip over the bulging brain vessel of a patient, letting them decide on whether to repair the aneurysm. Most times, the problem surfaces when the aneurysm ruptures.

That is what happened to Jeff Harvey, whose wife died from an aneurysm. Doctors now tell him his children should get brain scans every few years, expensive and often not covered by health insurance.

Harvey said the CT scan was broken at the first hospital his wife Carol was taken to.
"We went to Buffalo General. Normally, you would have gone to Millard at that particular time. We come here," Harvey said. "We had to go to an emergency room. We had to wait an hour and a half to get a CT scan. Nobody knew what to do. And then, once we found out what happened, you have to get the neurosurgeon down here and get the operating room lined up and ready to go to do an operation."

His experience is why he became co-founder of Neurovascular Diagnostics, which is developing a blood test. Company President and CEO Vincent Tutino said the computerized test uses blood biomarkers.

"We're looking at gene expression in the blood and differences in gene expression between people that do and don't have aneurysms," Tutino said. "Those changes are attributed to the functioning of white blood cells."

The early results are successful enough that federal dollars are coming in for continuing the research, but more tests are needed.

"That's exactly why we have to run our clinical trials," he said. "So a clinical trial will be able to provide the firsthand evidence of this. Exactly, right now we're working with patients that do or don't have, to simply validate the diagnostic claim."

The company is working with Kaleida Health's Gates Vascular Institute and other medical centers to test blood from people being tested for aneurysms, who already have brain scans. The next stage would be random blood tests, looking for the biomarkers.

The blood test is done by a computer chip coated with a chemical mix that is tested automatically. The FDA has already approved the computer chips and the chemistry.

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.
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