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Brain Implant Can Deliver Medicine by the Push of a Button

Alissa Sauer
By Alissa SauerMarch 21, 2018

A team of scientists have developed an ultra-thin brain implant that can administer medication to targeted areas deep within the brain structure.

Learn more about the device and how it can help people living with neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

A Revolutionary Approach to Medication Administration

In a study funded by the National Institutes of Health and conducted by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, researchers have created an ultra-thin brain implant that can deliver medications to the brain by remote control.

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The customizable deep-brain implant can deliver different doses of more than one drug on demand. The device is composed of two thin medication tubes slid into a stainless steel needle the diameter of a single human hair (approximately 150 microns). The needle is then interred through a hole in the skull into the desired area of the brain. An electrode on the tip of the device provides feedback and monitors how targeted neurons adapt to the medication.

The device, named miniaturized neural drug delivery system (MiNDS) is hooked to two, small programmable pumps under the skin that hold the medications. The pumps can be refilled through injection. Currently, the device can deliver medication for up to two months.

Brain Implant: A Potential New Way to Treat Dementia

MiNDS has only been tested in mice and non-human primates so far, but if successful in human trials, it may help treat brain diseases like dementia and Parkinson’s.

Robert Langer, professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and part of the MiNDS research team said, “You could deliver things right to where you want, no matter the disease.”

For many brain diseases, getting medications past the blood-brain barrier is a show stopper, and reaching the deepest structures of the brain can be downright impossible. Drugs delivered by IV that do make it past the blood-brain barrier encompass the entire brain and can trigger unwanted side effects.

MIT Professor Michael Cima says, “One of the problems with central nervous system drugs is that they’re not specific, and if you’re taking them orally they go everywhere. The only way we can limit the exposure is to just deliver to a cubic millimeter of the brain, and in order to do that, you have to have extremely small cannulas.”

Having a device that delivers medications directly to the area of the brain needed could greatly improve the quality of life for people living with diseases like dementia, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s.

Additional testing is no doubt necessary before the brain implant will be attempted in humans but these kinds of tools and insight into the brain are crucial for research and give scientists additional insight into how the medication affects neurons in the brain.

Would you try a brain implant device like this to treat dementia? Why or why not? We’d like to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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Alissa Sauer
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Alissa Sauer

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