Posted on Aug 20, 2019, 2 p.m.
As published in Nature Biomedical Engineering a device has been invented that can control neural circuits by using a tiny brain implant which can be managed by a smartphone, in a collaborative study from the Jeong group at KAIST, South Korea, and the Bruchas Lab in Seattle.
According to the researchers this soft neural implant is the first known wireless device that is capable of delivering multiple drugs and coloured lights, this technology may help to speed up research efforts to discover therapies for brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, pain, depression, and addiction.
“The wireless neural device enables chronic chemical and optical neuromodulation that has never been achieved before,” said lead author Raza Qazi, a researcher with the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology and University of Colorado Boulder. “It allows us to better dissect the neural circuit basis of behavior, and how specific neuromodulators in the brain tune behavior in various ways. We are also eager to use the device for complex pharmacological studies, which could help us develop new therapeutics for pain, addiction and emotional disorders.”
This technology uses replaceable drug cartridges and bluetooth low energy to deliver drugs and light to specific neurons. The team suggests it overshadows conventional neuroscience methods that involve metal tubes and optical fibers that limit subject movement due to their connections and cause lesions in soft brain tissue over time which makes them not suitable for long term implantation.
The drug cartridges were assembled into a brain implant for mice with a soft thin probe which consists of microfluidic channels and LEDs smaller than a grain of salt for unlimits drug doses and light delivery. The device allows neuroscientists to study brain circuits for several months without the drugs running out. A simple user interface on a smartphone controls the device to trigger any specific combination or precise sequencing of light and/or drug deliveries in any implanted target.
“This revolutionary device is the fruit of advanced electronics design and powerful micro and nanoscale engineering,” said Jae-Woong Jeong, a professor of electrical engineering at KAIST. “We are interested in further developing this technology to make a brain implant for clinical applications.”
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