A Minnesota startup is exploring ways to provide a better way to treat brain aneurysms.
Aneuclose is pursuing several different approaches, but the one that is furthest along involves a mesh device. The idea is to insert the mesh or net into the sac of the aneurysm, fill up the mesh with microsponges and a contrast media or other liquid. And the hope is for the mesh to expand and take up the space in the irregular shaped aneurysm with the liquid seeping out through the pores of the mesh, while the microsponges are retained. Then the device is closed and detached. The mesh is intended to treat narrow-neck aneurysms.
“This is exciting because people have tried to seal off aneurysms with stent-like or wire-like things and it’s very hard to get those to conform to an irregular-shaped aneurysm,” said Robert Connor, CEO of Aneuclose, in an interview.
With the mesh — called Janjua Aneurysm mesh, after Connor’s partner and co-inventor Dr. Tariq Janjua, medical director, Neurocritical Care Medicine, National Brain Aneurysm Center — and microsponges, this is now conceivable.
Connor has been bootstrapping this invention with three partners who have spent their own money on bench testing. He acknowledges that the company is very early stage and has a long, tough road to hoe, but believes that physicians may warm to the device once he can prove that it can have better outcomes.
There are several standard methods of treating brain aneurysms currently, Connor explained. There is surgical clipping, which is essentially invasive brain surgery where physicians clamp the aneurysm from the outside. But such invasive measures have their own risks, not to mention that it is hard to access aneurysms in certain areas of the brain, Connor said.
Platinum coiling is another standard treatment that uses an endovascular approach to insert flexible coils into the aneurysm from within the blood vessel. Connor said the coils are able to occlude maybe 30 percent to 40 percent of the aneurysm space.
“Sometimes the blood continues to circulate and the aneurysm continues to grow,” Connor said. “Another problem is that coils can occlude into the parent vessel.”
Aside from the clinical issues related to coiling, it is also expensive because the material is platinum. A less expensive alternative is no small matter when trying to get reimbursement for a novel procedure.
Connor said the next step is to do more bench testing and then test the concept in animal models — most likely in rabbits. He expects the bench testing would cost around $50,000 and if all goes well, the animal studies could begin at the end of the summer.
All other challenges aside — ability to show proof of concept, raising capital or getting strategic partners, regulatory uncertainty — a big task will be to convince physicians.
“Physicians are relative conservative and rightly so because if they try something new and it doesn’t work, [there will be] more serious complications than trying a new accounting method.
Still working with Janjua of the National Brain Aneurysm Center gives him confidence.
“Physicians who do coiling and also clipping would be amenable to something better because of the problems with clipping and coiling,” Connor said. “The literature on coiling says that there is a need for a better method.”