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

The Future is Here: The Sensory Prosthetic Hand

prosthetic_originalMuch has been made of the advancements made in mind-controlled prosthetics lately. For many, the advancements made in this field have led to comparisons with the prosthetic hand that Luke Skywalker received at the end of the Empire Strikes Back. Remember that, how he got a robotic hand that not only looked real but also allowed him to feel pain? Well as it stands, we may be closer to that than previously thought.

Witness the new era of robo-prosthetic devices, ones that will not only restore motion to a amputees and people born without limbs, but also sensory perception! Developed by Silvestro Micera of the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland, it’s the first prosthetic that will provide real-time sensory feedback to its owners. Later this year, a man by the name of Pierpaolo Petruzziello, who lost half his arm in a car accident, will receive the first of its kind, once all the tests are concluded.

prostheticMuch like the mind-controlled prosthetics that have been making the rounds in recent years, this new device is wired directly to the user’s nervous system with electrodes, allowing them to control its movement. However, in this updated model, the process works both ways. Once the hand’s electrodes are clipped onto two of the arm’s main nerves, the median and the ulnar nerves, it will form a cybernetic connection allowing for the fast and bidirectional flow of information between the patient’s nervous system and the artificial hand.

In this respect, the arm works much as a real one does, using electrical stimuli to both send commands and receive sensory information. Announcing the development of the hand at the recently concluded AAAS conference in Boston, Micera was sure to highlight this aspect of the prosthetic, claiming that increased sensory feelings will improve acceptance of artificial limbs among patients.

prosthetic2Interestingly enough, this model is an updated version of one Micera and his team produced back in 2009, again for use by Petruzziello. He was able to move the bionic hand’s fingers, clench them into a fist and hold objects, and also reported feeling the sensation of needles pricked into the hand’s palm. However, this earlier version of the hand had only two sensory zones whereas the latest prototype will send sensory signals back from all the fingertips, as well as the palm and the wrists to give a near life-like feeling in the limb.

Once the hand and patient are united, he will wear it for a month in order to get a proper feel for the prosthetic and test out its many functions. Based on that test-drive, Micera hopes to develop a fully-functional and commercially viable model within the next two years.

Just think of it: prosthetics for amputees that will not only allow them to interact with their world again, but will provide them with the sensory information they need to actually feel like a part of it. One step closer to truly providing accident victims and people born without limbs a new and fully-functional lease on life. And perhaps to posthumanism as well!

transhuman3

Source: independent.co.uk, neurogadget.com