Yacine Boulaftali focuses on tackling brain aneurysms

Yacine Boulaftali has made brain aneurysms the central focus of his research, both due to his interest in vascular functions and because we still know very little about these sometimes fatal abnormalities. He has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC Starting Grant), securing his research for the next five years.

Yacine Boulaftali

Some arteries can become blocked while others can dilate. And although we hear much more about blocked arteries, due to the resulting risk of myocardial infarction or cerebrovascular accident, aneurysms are just as serious. Aneurysms are pockets of blood that form following the localized dilation of an artery. On imaging exams, they can be seen as little bulges on the artery walls. Around three million people are affected by brain aneurysms in France.

Their size increases over time, and patients live with the threat hanging over them - like the sword of Damocles - that they could rupture and cause a brain hemorrhage at any time. Ruptured aneurysms are always serious and are even fatal in half of all cases. Yacine Boulaftali decided to tackle the problem. Within the translational vascular research laboratory at Inserm unit 1148 (Bichat hospital, Paris), his research focuses on these abnormalities and, in particular, the role of platelets in intracranial aneurysms.

To successfully conduct his project, he submitted an application to the ERC and was awarded a starting grant at the beginning of 2017. As a result, he now has one and a half million euros over a period of five years to train a dedicated team, recruit a PhD student, a post-doctoral researcher and technician and launch his research. “The great advantage of the ERC is that it is willing to fund risky projects. This study will make it possible to analyze the blood of patients with intracranial aneurysms in vitro and  in vivo. Ultimately, I hope we will gain a clearer understanding of how these vascular abnormalities progress and discover markers for risks of their rupture. Currently, the only available treatment is surgery, which is not always possible and can be extremely risky," clarifies the researcher.

Yacine Boulaftali will be able to draw on his years of experience and collaborative work in the vascular field. Before launching this project, he had completed his PhD thesis at the Université Paris 7, within Inserm unit 1148, focusing on the role of an antiprotease in atherothrombosis. He followed this with a post-doc at Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in the USA, examining platelet signaling in the maintenance of vascular integrity. After eight years of research and several associated publications, he proposed a new project relating to the role of platelets in aneurysms, which won him a grant from the French foundation for medical research (FRM) and European Marie Curie funding. These successes brought him back to France, where he sat the competitive examination to join Inserm. He thus returned to unit 1148 at the end of 2015.

To find out more about Yacine Boulaftali’s research

Yacine Boulaftali works within the Hemostasis, Thrombo-inflammation and neurovascular repair team, in the translational vascular research laboratory (Unit 1148 Inserm/Université Paris 13/Université Paris 7, Bichat Hospital, Paris)