Dr. Edgar A. Samaniego, MD, MS, is Associate Professor of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Radiology at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and the recipient of a 2019 TBF research grant. Recently, we had the chance to speak with him about his very promising research project.
I understand you are originally from Ecuador?
Yes, I was born and raised in Ecuador. I came to the United States for medical training: I did my residency in Madison, Wisconsin, then fellowships at Stanford and Miami Cardiac and Vascular Institute. I met my wife in Wisconsin when she was working as a nurse. We have three small children and live in Iowa. I’ve been at the University of Iowa for 4 years.
What sparked your interest in brain aneurysms?
I’ve just seen so many patients suffering from brain aneurysms during my career. I practiced for several years in Ecuador and it’s the same everywhere; many patients with ruptured aneurysms are so young, and all of a sudden their lives – and the lives of those around them – change, with so little notice. It’s frustrating because there are so many things we don’t know about brain aneurysms. There is a huge void in our knowledge about why brain aneurysms form, how they grow and who is at risk. This really inspired my interest in researching everything about brain aneurysms. It’s a challenging field, but it’s promising too -the potential of figuring out how to stop brain aneurysms from growing, or even how to prevent them from forming, would be a dream come true.
Tell us a little bit about the project.
One of the great things about being part of a large research center is having access to a huge number of resources. This project, for example, is a collaborative effort between the Departments of Neurology, Radiology and Neurosurgery. Our group has been working for the last 10 years in aneurysm characterization. We have used different imaging methods and pioneered new techniques to better identify aneurysms that are at risk of rupture. As technology continues to evolve, we have more opportunities to find aneurysms as little as 3 mm. We can study the walls of these aneurysms and identify changes that cause the aneurysm to rupture. The aim of the research that The Bee Foundation has funded is to continue our exploration into high resolution aneurysm wall imaging with 3T and 7T scans. We would like to establish a “Gold Standard” in brain aneurysm imaging. The second part of the research is to correlate that imaging with known predictors of brain aneurysm rupture such as size, morphology and location.
What is the end goal of the study?
There are different theories about how aneurysms form, but inflammation in the aneurysm wall is among the components factoring in the formation and growth of aneurysms. We use the MRI in our study because it is more powerful than a CT scan in terms of the ability to identify changes in the brain and its vasculature, Our end goal is to identify the presence of inflammation with a regular 3T MRI. And our ultimate goal, of course, is to find a biomarker of aneurysm instability and be able to determine which aneurysms are at risk of rupture.
At the end of this study, what would be your idea of the potential next steps?
Following this project we would hope to do a prospective study and follow up with patients that have aneurysms to determine if, based on changes in the aneurysm’s wall, they will rupture.
I’m grateful for this research study, and am proud to be associated with The Bee Foundation. And I would particularly like to thank Drs. Michael Chen, J Mocco and William Mack, members of The Bee Foundation Scientific Advisory Board, for their support with this project! I look forward to seeing everyone at the upcoming Honey Bash.