• Study to Identify Biomarkers for Stroke

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Study to Identify Biomarkers for Stroke

Jul 31 2023

University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Trust, along with the West Midlands Ambulance Service University NHS Foundation Trust, Midlands Air Ambulance Charity and the University Hospital Trust’s industry partner, Marker Diagnostics, are working on a project to quickly and accurately identify stroke patients who need time-critical treatment before irreversible brain damage occurs. Some treatments, such as thrombolysis (clot busting drugs) or mechanical thrombectomy (manual clot removal) are most effective when administered within hours of symptom onset. 

A study funded by the Stroke Association, the Golden HOur for STroke (GHoST) led by Professor Antonio Belli, Professor of Trauma Neurosurgery at the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Inflammation & Ageing, aims to identify biomarkers (small molecules) in blood, urine, or saliva, that will enable rapid diagnosis so patients can be routed directly to the most appropriate treatment centre.

Earlier research by Professor Belli’s team had found that the concentration of specific molecules in saliva changes rapidly after a traumatic brain injury and a three-year study in elite rugby established that these biomarkers can be used in next-generation diagnostic tests. He explained: “Our previous studies detected ultra-early biomarkers and cellular responses that had never been reported in human studies before and resulted in a non-invasive diagnostic test that could change the way concussion is managed.  In conjunction with our industry partner Marker Diagnostics, we’re now looking to repeat this success with stroke.”

The funding from the Stroke Association will include support from Marker Diagnostics UK, to bring its Birmingham Biohub lab’s sncRNA discovery and commercialisation expertise into the study.

The researchers hope to identify sncRNAs that will accurately identify stroke and distinguish it from stroke-mimicking conditions, such as seizure or migraine, which account for 30-40% of emergency ambulance admissions. They will also investigate whether biomarkers can differentiate between the two main types of stroke, ischaemic, caused by a blood clot requiring drugs or surgical removal; and haemorrhagic caused by a brain bleed requiring brain surgery.  

The study will run for three years, with results expected in late 2026. 

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