Blood Test for Aneurysms

Categories: Research

Research Points to Potential Way to Detect Brain Aneurysms with a Blood Test ~

An estimated five percent of Americans harbor an unruptured brain aneurysm which, if it ruptures, can be fatal or result in lifelong disabilities. Because most unruptured aneurysms have no symptoms, they remain dormant, often being found only after they rupture.

The early detection of brain aneurysms has been a goal of researchers for decades, as it would make it possible for doctors to monitor and, if necessary, treat aneurysms to avoid rupture and its often-devastating consequences. With funding from the Brain Aneurysm Foundation (BAF), a team of researchers at State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo, NY, and the Toshiba Stroke and Vascular Research Center has potentially found a way to detect brain aneurysms early with a simple blood test.

Their research was published in a paper in the January 17, 2018 issue of PLoS One entitled “Circulating Neutrophil Transcriptome May Reveal Intracranial Aneurysm Signature.” The authors are Vincent Tutino, Kerry Poppenberg, Kaiyu Jiang, James Jarvis, Yijun Sun, Ashish Sonig, Adnan Siddiqui, Kenneth Snyder, Elad Levy, John Kolega, and Hui Meng (full citation below).

Drs. Meng and Tutino are both recent recipients of grants from the Brain Aneurysm Foundation (BAF) through its Chairs of Research program, which supports brain aneurysm research through gifts of $10,000 or more from donors in memory or honor of a loved one. This project was funded in part by the BAF’s Carol W. Harvey Chair of Research.

Currently, most unruptured brain aneurysms are detected incidentally by brain imaging done for other reasons. However, due to its potential risks and high cost, imaging is not suitable for screening the general public. Even for high-risk individuals, such as those with a family history of brain aneurysm, experts debate whether imaging is cost effective. Consequently, there is great interest in finding noninvasive and inexpensive strategies, such as blood testing, to look for diagnostic biomarkers of brain aneurysms.

In their exploratory study, Drs. Meng and Tutino examined circulating neutrophils in subjects’ blood to determine whether they carry RNA expression signatures, or biomarkers, of brain aneurysms. They examined neutrophils, a type of white blood cell that helps fight infection, as these cells respond to the persistent inflammation caused by aneurysms.

The researchers gathered blood samples from “matched” subjects (people with similar demographics and health status) with and without a brain aneurysm, as determined by angiography, and compared their circulating neutrophils. Using sophisticated RNA sequencing and bioinformatics techniques, they identified a brain aneurysm-associated RNA expression signature that was able to separate patients with and without aneurysms. A separate study in a smaller group of unmatched patients found that this signature was able to distinguish nine out of 10 patients with brain aneurysms.

While these findings are preliminary and need to be validated in larger, more diverse groups of subjects, they highlight a potential for developing informative biomarkers from blood samples to identify patients with brain aneurysms. Ultimately, Drs. Meng’s and Tutino’s vision is to create a pre-screen blood test to identify at-risk individuals would benefit the most from diagnostic brain imaging, thereby making imaging cost effective.

Citation: Tutino VM, Poppenberg KE, Jiang K, Jarvis JN, Sun Y, Sonig A, Siddiqui AH, Snyder KV, Levy EI, Kolega J, Meng H: Circulating Neutrophil Transcriptome May Reveal Intracranial Aneurysm Signature. PLoS One 13(1):e0191407 (epub January 17, 2018 DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0191407). PMID 29342213 Open access