According to the World Health Organization (WHO), brain injury is the leading cause of death and disability worldwide. It is estimated that approximately 10 million people will be affected by traumatic brain injury (TBI) by 2020.
TBI is a complex injury that causes unpredictable damage to brain. It can lead to an expansive range of complications and inabilities and is the driving cause for cognitive impairment, neurological disorders, and certain complications such as seizures, meningitis, and nerve damage.
Biocompatible brain implants, sensors that can monitor patients with TBI, is a new innovation from an international research team. The device has been successfully tested in animal models.
TBI monitoring devices commonly used today are based on technology from the 1980s. While they are accurate, they are large, complex, and involve cumbersome traditional brain injury detection processes. With advancement in technology, scientists have developed wireless brain sensors such as implants to improvise the process. Like any other electronic implant, these were not free from the complications of surgical interventions for insertion and removal of device and ensuing infections.
This implantable biodegradable brain sensor consists of poly lactic-co-glycolic acid (PLGA) and silicone, which help in continuous monitoring of intracranial pressure and temperature post brain injury. The benefit of these novel absorbable devices is that they get dissolved in body fluids over time, eliminating the need for surgery to extract it, which further lessens the risk of infections and complications. These sensors can also be fabricated to detect other physiological properties of the brain after injury, which might ease the monitoring process. Integration of microelectrodes, along with the sensor, can be applied to record neuronal activities after TBI, which may shed light on potential methods for injury prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.
The high incidence of neurological disorders due to change in lifestyle, increasing stress levels, drastic variations in social environments, and increasing records of road accidents are clear indications of a pressing need for brain sensors. The promise of adaptability of the device suggests that in future, sensors could meet a variety of needs in clinical medicine. Integrating the brain sensor with drug delivery technology may also provide a novel approach for TBI treatment, by bypassing obstacles created by blood-brain barrier.
The biodegradable wireless brain sensor technology may thus act as a platform for new types of neuroscience experiments with vast amounts of data going wireless and being continuously streamed from brain micro-circuits. The miniaturized device, with such tremendous potential, may pave the way for advancement in science and medicine in the near future.