Tiny electrodes have been coated with a drug-loaded polymer in an attempt to design an implant capable of detecting a number of neurological symptoms, such as those associated with an epileptic seizure, and treating them simultaneously.
In a study published today, 2 June 2011, in IOP Publishing's Journal of Neural Engineering, researchers have developed a novel technology to precisely modulate individual neurons in rats, allowing the molecular, neuronal, and circuit functions to be analysed with unprecedented precision.
Based on the electrical conducting properties of the polymer Polypyrrole (PPy), the researchers, from the University of Pittsburgh, have demonstrated a novel way of loading specific drugs onto an array of electrodes and triggering their release into cultured neurons, allowing for a more precise insight into the cellular mechanisms of neuronal networks.
On top of this, the researchers have also demonstrated how the release of drugs could be informed, in real-time, by the recording of activity in neurons, a step essential for creating a closed-loop system that both diagnoses and treats symptoms simultaneously, creating several potential applications.
Co-author Professor X Tracy Cui said, "We envision an implanted device in the future that will monitor the brain activity, detect or predict an onset of epileptic seizure, and send the command to the electrode at the most appropriate location, releasing an anti-convulsive drug to prevent the seizure."
Multielectrode arrays (MEAs) small devices that can control or record the electrical circuitry in neurons have long been used as a way of measuring neuronal activity and transforming this into an action; technologies such as ear implants and cardiac pacemakers have benefited from them.
Recent advances, however, have allowed MEAs to be coupled with devices that release specific drugs in order to test how neural circuits function, as
|Contact: Michael Bishop|
Institute of Physics