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This Tiny Implant Can Deliver Medicine to Your Brain With the Push of a Button

This Tiny Implant Can Deliver Medicine to Your Brain With the Push of a Button
From TIME - January 25, 2018

(WASHINGTON)Scientists have created a hair-thin implant that can drip medications deep into the brain by remote control and with pinpoint precision.

Tested only in animals so far, if the device pans out it could mark a new approach to treating brain diseasespotentially reducing side effects by targeting only the hard-to-reach circuits that need care.

You could deliver things right to where you want, no matter the disease, said Robert Langer, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology whose biomedical engineering team reported the research Wednesday.

Stronger and safer treatments are needed for brain disorders ranging from depression to Parkinsons. Simply getting medications inside the brain, past whats called the blood-brain barrier, is a hurdle. Its even harder to reach its deepest structures.

Pills and IV drugs that make it inside trigger side effects as they wash over entire regions of the brain. So doctors have tried inserting tubes into the brain to pump drugs closer to their targets, but that risks infection and still isnt accurate enough. The most targeted success to date is a cancer treatment, a wafer placed on the site of a surgically removed brain tumor that oozes out chemotherapy.

The MIT teams next-generation approach: a customizable deep-brain implant that can deliver varying doses of more than one drug on demand.

The researchers constructed two ultra-thin medication tubes and slid them into a stainless steel needle thats about the diameter of a human hair. That needle, built as long as needed to reach the right spot, gets inserted through a hole in the skull into the desired brain circuitry.

An electrode on the tip provides feedback, monitoring how the electrical activity of targeted neurons change as the medication is delivered.

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