CINCINNATI—Researchers from the University of Cincinnati (UC) colleges of engineering and medicine have been awarded a $9 million, five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop technologies geared toward early detection of neurologic emergencies.
The award funds the Point-of-Care Center for Emerging Neuro Technologies—a resource hub for UC and national researchers who need help with any stage of technology development.
Stroke is the third leading cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the United States. This, and other neurologic emergencies, can quickly lead to irreversible brain damage.
Finding ways to identify or rule out neurologic emergencies quickly—wherever treatment is being delivered—is critical for preventing further injury.
“It’s said that ‘time is brain’ during a neurologic emergency,” says principal investigator Fred Beyette, PhD, “so point-of-care information is critical for preventing brain damage, dysfunction and death.”
From Invention to Intervention
Beyette, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, and co-principal investigator Joseph Clark, PD, are no strangers to the work required to conceptualize and develop point-of-care technologies.
The two are developing an instrument that can rapidly analyze spinal fluid. A laboratory procedure that with current technology can take hours is reduced to three minutes with the duo’s innovation.
The device—now about the size of a shoebox—can quickly detect the presence of red blood cells in spinal fluid. But more important, the technology can detect bilirubin, a chemical found when red blood cells begin to break down.
“Finding bilirubin in a spinal tap is a good indicator that the blood has been in the spinal fluid for some time,” says Clark, a professor in the department of neurology. “If the blood in the tap is purely hemoglobin, it’s possible that the blood we’re seeing was introduced into the fluid during the process of tapping. But if bilirubin is present, we know the blood has begun to break down, and we can infer that it has been in the fluid for a while and is coming from another source—possibly a subarachnoid hemorrhage.”
Subarachnoid hemorrhage is a form of bleeding stroke that occurs when an artery bursts near the membrane that surrounds the brain. Blood then contaminates protective fluid around the brain.
Clark has studied subarachnoid hemorrhage and has found that once blood is mixed with the protective fluid around the brain, specific molecules develop that—in 60 percent of hemorrhagic stroke sufferers—can cause cerebral vasospasm, or “secondary stroke.”
Because a secondary stroke is so common in subarachnoid hemorrhage patients, says Clark, it’s crucial that the first hemorrhage is detected as soon as care begins, so that damage can be controlled and patients monitored for more bleeding.
It’s technology like this, says Beyette, that UC’s new point-of-care center will support and see through to development and testing phases.
“There’s a critical need for developing improved and rapid diagnostic information,” Beyette says. “The center will be structured to take ideas from conception to development of a prototype ready for clinical testing. We want to facilitate the creation of size-appropriate technologies that offer fast results to health care providers.”
Faculty from the departments of emergency medicine and neurosurgery will join Beyette and Clark and their engineering and neurology colleagues to lead several cores within the point-of-care center. The Office of Entrepreneurial Affairs and staff from UC’s intellectual property office will add expertise in technology commercialization.
The team will soon issue a national call for proposals.
For more information, contact Beyette at (513) 556-4588 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.