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UK Researchers Conducting Study to Develop Rapid Test to Identify Stroke Patients

NEW YORK – Researchers in the UK are collaborating with Marker Diagnostics to conduct the Golden Hour for Stroke (GHOST) study, data from which could lead to the development of a rapid noninvasive diagnostic test for identifying patients having a stroke in an emergency setting.

When patients are in an ambulance, emergency medical care providers use a symptom checklist to determine if they're having a stroke. A complete assessment takes place once patients are at the hospital and have been evaluated by specialists in neuroscience, which can add at least an hour to patients' treatment in the UK. The GHOST study, funded by the Stroke Association, seeks to change how stroke is managed in an emergency setting through the development of a rapid test.

The study will be led by Antonio Belli, professor of trauma neurosurgery at the University of Birmingham's Institute of Inflammation & Aging. Researchers from the West Midlands Ambulance Service University National Health Service (NHS) Foundation Trust, Midlands Air Ambulance Charity, and University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Trust will work together to identify biomarkers, particularly small noncoding RNAs (sncRNAs). UK-based Marker Diagnostics will contribute its expertise in sncRNA discovery and test commercialization to the collaboration. 

Belli has previously conducted research that Marker Diagnostics has used to develop a noninvasive sncRNA-based diagnostic test that differentiates between concussed and non-concussed patients. "Our previous studies detected ultra-early biomarkers and cellular responses that had never been reported in human studies before and resulted in a noninvasive diagnostic test that could change the way concussion is managed," Belli said in a statement. "In conjunction with our industry partner Marker Diagnostics, we're now looking to repeat this success with stroke."

In the GHOST study, researchers hope to identify sncRNAs for accurately identifying stroke and distinguishing it from other conditions that have similar symptoms, such as seizure or migraine; 30 percent to 40 percent of emergency room admissions involve cases where patients have these other conditions but are suspected of having a stroke. Researchers are also interested in identifying biomarkers that can help distinguish between ischemic stroke, which can be treated with blood clot-busting drugs or thrombectomy, and hemorrhagic stroke, which may require brain surgery. A test that can quickly differentiate between these types of strokes can help patients receive the appropriate treatment faster.

Paramedics will collect saliva, blood, and urine samples for the GHOST study from patients who are suspected of having a stroke within an hour of them experiencing symptoms. Once patients are in the hospital and receiving care, researchers will collect additional samples for biomarker analysis. Results from the three-year GHOST study are slated to read out in late 2026.