Carnegie Mellon University
July 30, 2019

Partnership Looks To Transform Brain Aneurysm Treatments

By Jacob Williamson-Rea

Ellis Robinson
  • College of Engineering
  • 1-412-268-7985

Chris Bettinger, an associate professor of materials science and engineering and biomedical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, is working to improve aneurysm treatments through a partnership with Ancure, LLC, a Pittsburgh-based company that specializes in medical device coatings, as well as Michael Horowitz, a neurosurgeon at the Pennsylvania Brain and Spine Institute.

An aneurysm occurs when the weakened vessels lead to a bulge in vasculature, causing blood to pool in the bulge. Ruptured aneurysms can occur at any age, and the mortality rate is almost 60 percent without treatment. Current treatments involve endovascular therapy, which is administered through a catheter. Surgeons insert a platinum coil through the catheter and directly into the defect, causing a blood clot and ultimately sealing off the vasculature defect. Unfortunately, treatment fails 30 percent of the time because the body breaks down and absorbs the tissue clot, and the aneurysm forms again.

"Current treatments are temporary solutions that the body eventually processes," Bettinger said. "When the clot fails, weeks later, months later, or years later, a patient has to undergo the same procedure again."

Surgeons have to perform the same procedure, and patients face a 30 percent failure rate each time. This model isn't sustainable, so Bettinger, Horowitz and Ancure aim to make aneurysm treatments more permanent.

Through a grant from the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Technology Alliance, the team has been testing GeniCoat, a genipin-based, controlled release material. Genipin is a chemical compound derived from gardenia fruit extract that serves as an extremely successful cross-linker for proteins. This creates a much more stable clot.

Once a coil is administered, the controlled release of genipin would begin. The clot would be reinforced and strengthened by cross-linked proteins, cutting the failure rate in half, to just 15 percent.

Traditional platinum coils result in the eventual destabilization of a fixed blood clot. Genipin-coated platinum coils result in the stabilization of a treated aneurysm.

"This genipin coil coating has the potential to reduce incidents of aneurysm recurrence," Horowitz said. "It's our hope that with this particular treatment, patients can receive just one surgery and be finished."

The initial PITA-funded in vitro component of this study has been successful. Now the team has partnered with Mayo Clinic for the in vivo component of the study.

Carnegie Mellon University is committed to educating, empowering and aligning its community around the world to address the Sustainable Development Goals, also known as the Global Goals, which aim to create a more peaceful, prosperous planet with just and inclusive societies. Recognizing the critical contributions that universities are making through education, research and practice, CMU publicly committed to undertaking a Voluntary University Review of the Global Goals. The 17 Global Goals cover wide-ranging issues, including reducing violence, ending extreme poverty, promoting equitable education, fighting inequality and injustice, advancing economic growth and decent work, and preventing the harmful effects of climate change by 2030.

The preceding story demonstrates CMU's work toward attaining Global Goals 3 and 17.