Health Beat

Health Beat: Blood test diagnoses stroke fast

TAMPA, Fla. - Lauren Barnathan wrapped up her workout earlier in the day and was meditating when something horrific happened. She had a stroke.

"I had no idea what was going on," she recalled. "I was screaming at my husband not to call 911 as he's doing it. Just complete denial."

While at Tampa General Hospital, a blood sample was taken. It's a blood sample that could help doctors find a way to speed up a stroke diagnosis. More than 140,000 people die each year from stroke in the United States. Reaction time is critical.

"Acute nature of the disease makes it important to be able to do everything we can to find out everything we can about the patient in a very short amount of time, at the beginning, as soon as they show symptoms," said Maha Sallam, the president of VuEssence Inc.

That is why Sallam said blood samples are being tested at the VuEssence lab at the University of South Florida.

"We have worked really hard to reduce amount of time it takes to measure the gene expression in the blood, which is what we base our test on," said Sallam.

Researchers are trying to develop a quick molecular genetic blood test that detects blood clot strokes as fast as possible. Right now, doctors rely on clinical assessments, MRIs and CT imaging.

"I think it would be a game-changer at a minimum," Sallam said.

"I still remember the night of my stroke, when they were consenting me to be a part of the test, and even during my stroke, I just remember thinking how cool is that," Barnathan said.

The most recent statistics show a decline in stroke death rates, but the risk of ischemic stroke in smokers is about double that of non-smokers. Ischemic stroke is when an artery to the brain is blocked.

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