In what they term a major step forward in pharmacology, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have developed new technology that may permit the targeting of specific brain circuits to treat pain, depression, epilepsy, and other neurological conditions. Consisting of an implantable wireless device about the width of a human hair, the new advance can be remotely activated to deliver light or medication directly to a specific area of the brain. The team has proved the efficacy of the approach in mice, and contends that it represents a theoretical path to the development of therapies that are more finely tailored and produce fewer side effects. The study was published online July 16 in the journal Cell.
Previous attempts to deliver drugs or other agents, such as enzymes or other compounds, to experimental animals have required the test subjects to be tethered to pumps and tubes that restricted their movement. But the new device embeds microfluid channels and microscale pumps to carry medication directly. Additionally, it is soft, like brain tissue, and can remain in the brain and function for a long time without causing inflammation or neural damage.
Read a Pain Reporter interview with Drs. Jae-Woong Jeong (engineer and developer of the device) and Michael R. Bruchas (coprincipal investigator) coauthors of this study.
Read a news release from Washington University about the research here.