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Tiny Electronic Brain Implant Offers Hope Against Epileptic Seizures

Aug 31, 2018 10:02 PM EDT
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Researchers are working on a brain implant that is designed to detect, stop, and prevent epileptic seizures from happening. Recent testing on mice proved to be successful.
(Photo : Pete Linforth | Pixabay)

People suffering from epileptic seizures may be able to get some relief in the future by getting electronic implants directly on their brain.

By placing an implant in the brain, the drug treatments could be transported directly to the cells causing seizures. Such a device has just been tested by researchers, showing the great potential in using these brain implants to detect, stop, and even prevent epileptic seizures.

Tiny Brain Implant For Epileptic Patients

In the study published in the journal Science Advances, scientists demonstrated the effectivity of the electronic implant in a rodent model of epilepsy.

As soon as the device detected the first signs of a seizure, neurotransmitters native to the brain were sent to stop the cells from passing the seizure message any further to other cells. Then the scientists tested to see if the seizures can be prevented even before beginning and found that their attempts are successful as well.

Dr. Christopher Proctor, lead author and a postdoctoral researcher in the University of Cambridge's Department of Engineering, explains in a report penned in The Conversation that the implant works by using an electric field that pushes these neurotransmitters out from an internal reserve. The process is called electrophoresis, and it allows the patients to control the dose and timing of the drugs more precisely.

"In addition to being able to control exactly when and how much drug is delivered, what is special about this approach is that the drugs come out of the device without any solvent," Proctor adds in a statement from the university. "This prevents damage to the surrounding tissue and allows the drugs to interact with the cells immediately outside the device."

Furthermore, seizures were found to be stopped just with 1 percent of the total amount of drug that can fit inside the reserve. This means that the implant could function for a lengthy period without needing refills.

Future Of New Technique

It's an innovative potential solution to epileptic seizures, but it might take a while before it hits the market. The researchers will be busy honing the device for public use, planning to observe long-term effects on the mice next.

If successful, this technique could revolutionize the medication for epilepsy, which is usually treated with anti-epileptic drugs that tend to come with side effects. These drugs are also known be ineffective in preventing seizures in 30 percent of patients.

The findings reveal that this method could also be used in other neurological conditions such as brain tumors and Parkinson's disease.

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