A team of British and French researchers has conducted a study that assessed the use of an implantable electronic device in identifying, stopping and preventing epileptic seizures.
The team comprised researchers from the UK’s University of Cambridge and France’s École Nationale Supérieure des Mines and INSERM.
During the study, the researchers directly implanted a neurotransmitter into the brain of mice.
The device was tuned to deliver a native brain chemical to stop the progression of the seizure, upon detection of the first signals of a seizure.
The thin, organic films of the implantable electronic device were said to cause minimal damage to the brain, while their electronic properties allow medical applications.
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Commonly, epilepsy is treated with drugs. However, the medications may lead to serious side effects and are known to fail at preventing seizures in three out of ten patients.
The implantable electronic device used in the latest research is designed to target the source of the seizure and send signals to the neurons to stop firing.
Meanwhile, the delivery of the brain chemical drug to the affected region is carried out using a neural probe, which is fitted with an ion pump and electrodes to track neural activity.
When the electrodes detect the seizure neural signal, the ion pump gets activated and generates an electric field.
The electric field results in electrophoresis, where the drug moves across an ion exchange membrane and leaves the device. This field’s strength can regulate the amount of drug released.
It was observed that relatively small doses of the drug are required to prevent the seizure, allowing operation of the device without requiring a refill for longer durations.
University of Cambridge Department of Engineering postdoctoral researcher Christopher Proctor said: “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.
“This prevents damage to the surrounding tissue and allows the drugs to interact with the cells immediately outside the device.”
While the approach is yet to be tested in humans, the researchers expect it to be useful in treating other conditions such as brain tumours and Parkinson’s disease.
The study results were published in the Science Advances journal.