UK developed “shape-memory” device to improve brain aneurysm treatment

Researchers at University of Oxford spinout firm Oxford Endovascular have developed a shape memory alloy implant that they claim could lead to a major improvement in the treatment of brain aneurysms.

The device, which was designed by Prof James Byrne from Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital, and Prof Zhong You from the University’s Department of Engineering, is made from a special laser-cut shape-memory alloy which can be posted into a catheter during surgery, inserted into the brain and opened up into a tiny mesh tube that fits into the natural shape of the blood vessel. This diverts the blood away from the aneurysm, allowing it to heal.

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The tiny device is made from a shape memory alloy

The device has been tested and optimised using computer models of the way blood moves through vessels and preclinical testing has shown that it is likely to work in the body. The next step is to use £2m raised from investors including Oxford Sciences Innovation PLC to take the device through clinical trials.

A brain aneurysm is a weakened point in a blood vessel where the pulsing blood pressure causes the wall of the vessel to balloon or bulge.  About one in 50 people in the UK develop aneurysms each year. If an aneurysm is left untreated it can burst or rupture, causing intense pain and life threatening bleeding into the brain, which will result in serious brain damage or death.

Commenting on the technology, Oxford Endovascular chairman, Brian Howlett, said: “We believe the…device will dramatically improve outcomes for patients, as many cannot be treated with current technologies. Physicians will be able to place the device more accurately and in a wider range of patients ensuring treatment is safer and more effective. Our aim is that they will also be able to treat deeper brain blood vessels not accessible with existing devices.”

The University’s technology commercialisation company Isis Innovation supported the team by filing patents, building the business plan and marketing the opportunity.

The Endovascular Cerebral Aneurysms Repair (ECAR) market is valued at $980m and expected to grow at 5% per year, reaching $1.4bn by 2020.