The Future is Here: Silk Brain Implant to Treat Epilespy

silk_implantsSilk implants are becoming the way of the future as far as brain implants are concerned, due to their paradoxically high resiliency and ability to dissolve. By combining them with nanoelectric circuits or drugs, scientists are exploring several possible applications, ranging from communications devices to control prosthetics and machines to medicinal devices that could treat disabilities and mental illnesses.

And according to a recent study released by the National Institutes of Health, treating epilepsy is just the latest application. According to the study, when administered to a series of epileptic rats, the treatment led to the rats experiencing far fewer seizures. What’s more, this new treatment represents something entirely new in terms of treatment of neurological disorder.

brain_chipFor starters, Rebecca L. Williams-Karneskyand and her colleagues used the silk implants for a timed-release therapy in rats experiencing epileptic seizures. Working on the theory that people with epilepsy suffer from a low level of adenosine – a chemical that the brain releases naturally to suppress seizures (and also perhaps movement during sleep) – they soaked the silk implants before implanting them.

Those rats who recieved the silk brain implants still had seizures, but their numbers were reduced fourfold. The implant released the chemical for ten days before they completely dissolved. And with time and testing, the treatment could very easily be made available for humans. According to the study’s co-author, Detlev Boison:

Clinical applications could be the prevention of epilepsy following head trauma or the prevention of seizures that often — in about 50 percent of patients — follow conventional epilepsy surgery. In this case, adenosine-releasing silk might be placed into the resection cavity in order to prevent future seizures.

brainscanBetween the timed release of drugs and nanoelectric circuits that improve neuroelasticity, recall and relaxation, brain implants are coming a long way. At one time, they were the province of cyberpunk science fiction. But thanks to ongoing research and development, they are quickly jumping from the page and becoming a reality.

Though they currently remain confined to medical tests and laboratories, experts agree that it will be just a few years time before they are commercially available. By sometime in the coming decade, medimachines and neural implants will probably become a mainstay, and neurological disorders a fully treatable phenomena.

Sources: io9.com, nih.gov

Controlling Epilepsy with Lasers

optogenetics-640x353For over a century, scientists have sought to learn more about epilepsy, the most common form of seizure activity in humans. Basically, these seizures are what happen when neurons misfire in response to sudden exposure to light. Arising in discrete regions on either pole of the brain, this neurological disorder effects many people worldwide and can have a drastic impact on their lives. Luckily, it seems that researchers may finally have a way to predict the seizures and even eliminate them  altogether.

It’s called optogenics: the science of using genetically modified viruses to insert light-responsive channels into the neurons and then following that up with the use of lasers to reduce and even eliminate TLE, or temporal lobe epilepsy. And thanks to ongoing research, there might just be a way to both predict and shut down these episodes of unwanted neurological activity just as they begin. And ironically, its all through the use of targeted laser light.

Mouse-HippocampusThe breakthrough came in a recent study by Nature Communications, researchers were able to trigger seizures in mice by treating the hippocampus section of their brains (the part involved in seizure activity). It began with the use of an acid named kainate that is derived from seaweed, which in turn left them susceptible to spontaneously generated seizure activity. Then, through the use of a series of implanted EEG electrodes, the researchers were able to detect signs that seizures were beginning and then shut them off with light.

Naturally, there are concerns about adapting the technique to humans. Not only were the mice specifically engineered for the study, there is also the issue of achieving full optical stimulation in human subjects. To address these issues, a number of solutions are in the works. For example, biocompatible polymer electrodes have been designed to ensure that the genetically-modified virus can be delivered properly to the human brain. In addition, a number of key developers have been working on compact devices that contain hundreds of discrete delivery electrodes that ought to provide the requisite neurological stimulation.

neurozeneIt is research, and it’s ongoing. But the results are encouraging and with ongoing development to adapt it to humans, anti-seizure medical devices are expected to be exploding in the near future. Much like the tiny electrodes used to stimulate brain activity and recollection in a simian, we could be looking at the prototype for a new type of brain implants that addresses and eliminates neurological disorders.

Source: Extremetech.com