New approach to brain aneurysms: Filling them with polymer foams

illustration of foam filling a brain aneurysm

Illustration: Look College of Engineering

A Texas A&M University-led research effort aimed at treating potentially fatal brain aneurysms by filling them with polymer foams has received a $2.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) with the goal of beginning human trials by 2018.

The three-year grant, which is supported by the NIH National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), is led by Duncan Maitland, professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Texas A&M. Maitland’s team of researchers includes colleagues from his department, the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Texas A&M, and the Mayo Clinic Medical School. The research is a collaboration between Maitland’s Biomedical Device Laboratory and the startup company Shape Memory Therapeutics.

The treatment, Maitland explains, makes use of special plastics called polyurethane-based shape memory polymer foams (SMPs) and could provide doctors with a more effective and less risky method for treating aneurysms – blood-filled, balloon-like bulges in the walls of a blood vessels that can rupture and cause neurological damage that is debilitating or even fatal, especially if near the brain.

Cerebral aneurysm ruptures occur in 30,000 people per year in the United States, and nearly 75 percent of those patients will either die or become neurologically debilitated, Maitland says.

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