In August 2016 we announced the winner of The Bee Foundation Brain Aneurysm Research Grant, Dr. Ahmed Awad – currently a post-doctoral associate researcher in the Department of Neurosurgery at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. Dr. Awad’s project, Using Genetic Variants to Identify Molecular Pathways Leading to Intracranial Aneurysms Formation in Human: A Pilot Study, is a bioinformatics and computational genomics project. This means using genetic variants in identifying the molecular pathways involved in the formation of intracranial aneurysms in humans. We are excited now to catch up with Dr. Awad for his mid-year report.
Midyear Progress Report
The project aims to discover a blood-based biomarker to detect brain aneurysms and identify the molecular pathways involved in the pathogenesis of brain aneurysms in humans. The Bee Foundation grant is currently providing the resources for the pilot phase of this project. In September of 2016, eligible brain aneurysm patients began enrollment for the initial phase, with strict criteria for eligibility for this phase in order to avoid confounders. After meeting the eligibility criteria, the project is explained to the patient, as well as the importance of their participation. After obtaining informed consent from the patient, blood samples are collected and deidentify for the patient’s privacy. Next, samples are sent to the immune core for sorting cells. On sorting completion, samples are sent in batches to DNA and RNA sequencing, followed by genotyping.
The first batch of 14 patients has been sent for sequencing and the researchers are currently waiting for the results in order to proceed for the bioinformatics part. This cohort includes 12 females and two males from different ethnicities. At the same time, more patients are being enrolled for the second batch.
Dr. Awad says, “These progresses would not have been possible without funding from The Bee Foundation. In the second part of this pilot phase, we aim to have a larger batch with a control group. On the completion of the pilot phase, we aim to apply for larger funding from the National Institute of Health where we can enroll hundreds of patients.”
The study’s short-term goals are 1. Identifying the molecular pathways that are involved in the formation of brain aneurysms, so a drug may be developed that can inhibit such pathways and prevent the formation of aneurysms, and 2. Developing a blood biomarker so people can be screened who are at risk of a brain aneurysm and the close family members of those patients with intracranial aneurysms. Achieving these goals with contribute to the longer-term goal of preventing the occurrence of brain aneurysms and decreasing mortality from this disease. We look forward to Dr. Awad’s results at the conclusion of the pilot study.