AneuX project - Towards identifying imaging biomarkers for cerebral aneurysms

Aneurysm disease of the arterial wall represents an undue dilation of the vessel lumen and is associated with a weakening of biomechanical properties of the concerned vessel wall. Aneurysm initiation occurs by a variety of possibilities and following processes of further vessel wall degeneration seem to follow patterns as unraveled with research on atherosclerosis. The progressive de-cellularization of the vessel wall is the hallmark of this disease obeying apparently mainly the mechanisms of chronic and acute inflammations. Both combined may progressively weaken the vessel wall and bring a stable lesion into a status of instability, enabling conditions allowing for further expansion and possible failure, i.e. rupture.

Intracranial aneurysm disease has a prevalence of 2-3% and a very small incidence of rupture (10/100'000 population/year). Intracranial aneurysms are increasingly identified incidentally. With incidentally found, quiescent and asymptomatic aneurysm lesions, there is need to better identify lesions at risk of further degradation, requiring an invasive preemptive treatment.

The AneuX project is led by Prof. Philippe Bijlenga of the department of clinical neurosciences of Geneva University Hospitals and CABMM member Dr. Sven Hirsch. The team consists of vessel biologists, clinicians, computer scientists and engineers. The researchers follow the hypothesis that aneurysm 3D-shape reflects the disease status. AneuX searches for biomarkers that qualify for clinical decision-making. Clinical data, imaging data and tissue samples are collected from several centers. The biological team focuses on the interplay of vascular biology and mechanical stimuli. Further insights are produced with a rat model to understand the impact of a dysfunctional vascular wall. AneuX also supports the Swiss Neuro Foundation in their efforts to establish a standardized database for cerebral aneurysms. SystemsX.ch finances this project over the period of three years with 1.9 Million CHF.

The project is conducted by several researchers with affiliation to the CABMM: Sven Hirsch from the ZHAW in Wädenswil, Niels Kuster from the IT`IS Foundation in Zurich, Brigitte von Rechenberg from the University of Zurich and Daniel Rüfenacht and Isabel Wanke from the Hirslanden Clinic in Zurich. Vessel biologist Prof. Brenda Kwak from the University of Geneva completes the team.