Stroke Research Center to Focus On Surgery Accessing The Brain Through Blood Vessels

By Lois Baker

Release Date: December 12, 1996 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A stroke research center unmatched in technology and sophistication is being established at the University at Buffalo with a $3.6 million gift of advanced image-guidance equipment from Toshiba America Medical Systems, Inc.

The new equipment will give UB neurosurgeons and radiologists the imaging capability necessary to develop and perfect new minimally invasive surgery techniques for treating and preventing stroke, the third-leading cause of death in the U.S. and the number-one cause of adult disability.

These techniques involve reaching aneurysms and blood clots in the brain internally through the blood vessels -- called endovascular surgery -- rather than by surgery involving opening up the skull.

Neurosurgeons accomplish this feat by inserting miniscule catheters and instruments into the main artery in the groin and -- aided by special imaging technologies such as Toshiba's, which can provide 3-D moving pictures of the inside of any part of the body -- guiding the tiny implements through the blood vessels to the affected area of the brain.

"Minimally invasive procedures will dominate surgery in the 21st century," said L. Nelson Hopkins, M.D., a pioneer in the field of endovascular surgery and director of the new center. "Tomorrow's surgical techniques for stroke will be developed, tested and perfected here at the Toshiba Stroke Research Center. We know of no other research center with comparable equipment and capabilities." UB researchers expect to begin work in the new center in February 1997.

The impact of stroke on human lives and on health-care expenditures is enormous, according to Hopkins, professor and chair of the UB Department of Neurosurgery.

"Of the people who suffer a stroke in any one year, one-third will die and one-third will sustain minimal damage and be able to resume normal lives. The remaining third will spend the rest of their days in nursing homes. We hope to be able to end that suffering by preventing stroke, or `brain attack,' from occurring."

Hopkins was a lead researcher in recent clinical trials of the Guglielmi Detachable Coil, the first product for treating patients with inoperable or very-high-risk intracranial aneurysms to receive approval from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.

The Toshiba Stroke Research Center will be housed on the fourth floor of UB's new Biomedical Research Building. Installation of the equipment was aided by a grant from the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation of Buffalo, which helped offset the cost of essential structural alterations. Another grant from an anonymous donor will help cover operating expenses.

Hopkins described the angiographic equipment donated by Toshiba as "beyond state-of-the-art." Toshiba also will provide funding to support graduate-student stipends and an exchange program between Japanese and UB researchers.

"Toshiba is honored to be part of this new exciting research venture with the University at Buffalo," stated Jeffrey T. Dillon, sales manager with Toshiba America Medical Systems, Inc. He said Toshiba was willing to commit major resources to the project because of the clinical expertise, commitment and research record of Hopkins and his team.

The work to be conducted in the center, he added, "has one of the greatest potentials in research in the U.S. today."

Several UB clinical departments and basic-science disciplines will collaborate in stroke research at the center.

Faculty from the fields of neurosurgery, mechanical and aerospace engineering, radiation physics and computer science have formed the Neurovascular Research Affinity Group. These researchers will pursue investigations in neuroangiography and endovascular therapy for stroke, image optimization with radiation-dose reduction, and device development, Hopkins said.

One of the more unusual collaborations fostered by the center brings together an aerospace engineer and former aircraft designer for the Israeli Air Force with extensive experience in the dynamics of air flow, and a neuroradiologist with intimate knowledge of brain physiology. The two scientists will combine their expertise to investigate and analyze the dynamics of blood flow, an essential component in the development of stroke.

Researchers from surface science, clinical engineering and neurology also are expected to use the Toshiba angiographic equipment, as well as specialists such as cardiologists, radiologists and surgeons, since any area of the body can be accessed through the vascular system.

Hopkins said the educational potential of the facility is limitless.

"The Toshiba Stroke Research Center will enable us to expand and diversify our current working courses in endovascular techniques for treatment of experimental aneurysms, and to attract course participants from around the globe," he explained. "The flow of personnel and information between the center and Asia, other international research centers and the U.S. will offer unique educational opportunities to UB students and faculty and the research community at large."