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Home / Health / Good news for epileptic patients: implanting a new device in the brain can prevent seizures

Good news for epileptic patients: implanting a new device in the brain can prevent seizures



LONDON: A new electronic device implanted directly into the brain can detect, stop, and even prevent epileptic seizures, scientists say. The researchers, including those from the University of Cambridge in the UK, implanted the device into the brains of mice. When the first signs of a seizure were detected, the device delivered a native brain chemical that prevented the seizure from progressing.

The results published in the journal Science Advances could also be applied to other diseases such as brain tumors and Parkinson's disease. The work represents another step forward in the development of soft, flexible electronics that are well connected to human tissue, researchers said.

"These thin, organic films have minimal brain damage, and their electrical properties are well-suited for this type of application," said George Malliaras, a professor at the Cambridge Department of Engineering.

  Brain image
When the first signals of a seizure were discovered, the device delivered a native brain chemical that prevented the seizure

While there are many different types of seizures, in most patients with epilepsy, neurons begin in the brain Fire and signal to adjacent neurons in a snowball effect that can affect awareness or motor control. Epilepsy is most commonly treated with anticonvulsants, but these medications often have serious side effects and do not prevent seizures in three out of ten patients.

The researchers used a neurotransmitter that acts as a "brake" at the source of the seizure, essentially signaling the neurons to stop firing and stop the seizure. The drug is delivered to the affected region of the brain through a neural probe containing a tiny ion pump and electrodes for monitoring neural activity.

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When the neural signal of a seizure is detected by the electrodes, the ion pump is activated, generating an electric field that moves the drug across an ion exchange membrane and out of the device, a process known as electrophoresis. The amount of drug can be controlled by adjusting the strength of the electric field.

"In addition to being able to control exactly when and how much drug is being administered, what's special about this approach is that the drugs leak out of the device without solvents," said Christopher Proctor, Cambridge postdoctoral researcher.

"This prevents damage to the surrounding tissue and allows the drug to interact with cells just outside the device," said Proctor.





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Researchers found that seizures could be prevented with relatively small drug doses accounting for less than one percent of the total drug loaded into the device. This means that the device can be operated for a long time without refilling.

They also found evidence that the administered drug, which was actually a neurotransmitter that is native to the body, was ingested by natural processes in the brain within minutes. The researchers said the drug should help reduce the side effects of the treatment.

Although early results are promising, the potential treatment for humans would be unavailable for several years, they said.


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