Jan. 18, 2021

Researchers develop new tool to assess stroke treatment

Discovery could potentially transform treatment decision-making
Christopher d’Esterre (left) and Philip Barber are applying aerospace models to image the brain and improve treatment assessment of stroke.
Christopher d’Esterre (left) and Philip Barber are applying aerospace models to image the brain. Photo supplied by d'Esterre

When someone arrives at the hospital showing signs of a stroke, every minute counts. A stroke means there is an interruption of blood flow to the brain. Quick and accurate imaging is essential for health-care practitioners to make prompt diagnosis and treatment decisions.

University of Calgary researchers at the Cumming School of Medicine’s Hotchkiss Brain Institute have created a quick and effective decision support tool to provide detailed images of the blockages in the brain.  Simple Perfusion Reconstruction Algorithm (SPIRAL) is an imaging technique that measures blood flow in the brain and pinpoints where the blockage is without using some current methods involving additional contrast dyes.

  • Pictured above: Christopher d’Esterre, left, and Philip Barber. Photo courtesy Christopher d'Esterre

Dr. Christopher d’Esterre, PhD, says the team is essentially applying aerospace models to studies of the brain. “We often see these approaches applied in coronary situations and with other diseases throughout the body, but something like this technology has never been used with ischemic stroke treatment. We are the first to try this.”

“What we have developed will allow more Canadian stroke centres to conduct endovascular procedures in the future,” says Dr. Philip Barber, MD. “By avoiding the additional scans required currently, there are many advantages in terms of time and cost savings. This new technology is a significant innovation.”

The current diagnostic approach for stroke can include three steps: a computerized tomography scan (CT or CAT scan), a CT angiography (CTA), when dye is injected into blood vessels which can then show where an artery is blocked, and CT perfusion (CTP), where a further injection of dye and an additional scan provide even greater detail to help health-care practitioners make treatment decisions about the benefit and safety of unblocking the artery.

The team is generating an entire program based on the one helical CTA scan, which provides a picture of what's happening at the tissue level, at the vascular level and at the clot level. Findings are published in the American Journal of Neuroradiology.

“It has taken us about six years to bring this idea to fruition,” says Barber.

Through Innovate Calgary, Barber and d’Esterre have launched Andromeda Medical Imaging Systems Inc., where they are developing advanced neuroimaging algorithms, including structural/functional and clinical prediction models with a focus on stroke and dementia patients.

“We’re moving toward regulatory approval for SPIRAL, and we have a commercial partner in Europe who will help us bring our algorithms to market quickly,” says d’Esterre, who is also CEO of Andromeda Medical Imaging Systems.

This clinical research translates to innovation that is not only expected to help stroke patients, but is also turning out to be an incubator for research breakthroughs that lead to commercialization.

“This is one of many examples of exciting technologies being developed at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine, in collaboration with partners like Alberta Health Services and Innovate Calgary,” says Dr. David Park, PhD, director of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute. “Our researchers continue moving toward innovative and impactful technologies with a dual goal to advance health care and boost Alberta’s economy.”

This work was supported by Heart & Stroke through a grant-in-aid for the REPERFUSE study.

Philip Barber is an associate professor of neurology and adjunct professor in the Departments of Radiology and Community Health Sciences at the Cumming School of Medicine. He is the director of the Calgary Stroke Prevention Clinic and is a member of the Calgary Stroke Program and the Hotchkiss Brain Institute.

Christopher d’Esterre is the CEO of Andromeda Medical Imaging and an adjunct professor in the Department of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Calgary.

Led by the Hotchkiss Brain InstituteBrain and Mental Health is one of six research strategies guiding the University of Calgary toward its Eyes High goals. The strategy provides a unifying direction for brain and mental health research at the university.