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YOUR HEALTH: A blood test that speeds up a stroke diagnosis

A young woman suffers a stroke while meditating. What happened next at the hospital has doctors looking differently at their diagnosis.

TAMPA, Florida – Lauren Barnathan wrapped up her workout earlier in the day and was meditating just like this when something horrific happened.

She had a stroke.

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

While in Tampa General Hospital, a blood sample was taken.

A blood sample that could help doctors find a way to speed up stroke diagnosis.

More than 140,000 people die each year from stroke in the United States.   Reaction time is critical.

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.

"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," explained Maha Sallam, president of VuEssence, Inc.

That's why Sallam says 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."

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, MRI's and CT imaging.

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

ACT FAST: People who present with acute stroke need immediate clinical assessment and treatment. Few people have much awareness of the symptoms of stroke and may delay seeking help as a result; hence the need for the Act FAST campaign.   FAST is an easy way to remember and identify the most common symptoms of a stroke.

  • F stands for face, does one side of the face droop?
  • A is for arms, does one arm drift downward?
  • S is for speech, is their speech slurred or strange?
  • And T is for time, if you see these things, call 911 immediately.

"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!", said Barhaven.

And the research being done could help in other ways.

"There is actually potential for extending that beyond acute state to where we analyze the patients as they go through the treatment process and maybe as they're assessed as to the reason behind the stroke and how to best manage the patient later on," said Sallam.

Right now, they are in preclinical trials and are hopeful it could be out in a handful of years.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.