Cerebral aneurysms are dangerous, potentially deadly lesions arising from a weakness in the wall of an artery, in this case in the brain, which causes it to bulge outward. If a cerebral aneurysm ruptures it can cause extensive brain damage resulting in neuro-cognitive impairment, deficits such as paralysis and blindness, coma or death. Over the last decade, specially designed stents—tiny mechanical cylindrical meshes implanted as a scaffold across the base of an aneurysm to facilitate repair of the parent artery—have in large part transformed the treatment of brain aneurysms. Because the stents can be delivered to the aneurysm site by a slender hollow tube called a catheter, the stress and risks of open brain surgery are avoided.
An early significant milestone in stent-mediated treatment of cerebral aneurysms was achieved at NYU School of Medicine. Arani Bose, M.D., formerly an assistant professor of Radiology and Neurology and Peter Kim Nelson, M.D., associate professor of Radiology and Neurosurgery, staff members from the Neurointer- ventional Service—working with material scientist David Johnson of TINI Metal Alloy and the NYU Office of Industrial Liason—founded Smart Therapeutics. Its mission specifically was to bring cutting-edge stent technology to the problem of cerebral aneurysms. Together with Bay Area engineers they recruited, they developed a flexible, self-expanding stent which could be delivered to the delicate arteries of the brain through a small microcatheter. The resulting device, ultimately rebadged as the Neuroform Micro-delivery Stent, was tested in clinical trials internationally, leading to its approval for the treatment of cerebral aneurysms by the Food and Drug Administration in 2002 and sparking a torrent of further innovation. In 2002 Smart Therapeutics was acquired by Boston Scientific.