Remote Control Drug Delivery to the Brainadmin
Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have developed a wireless, drug-dispensing device capable of by-passing the protective blood-brain barrier that so often makes treating brain difficult. This team of researchers has developed a wireless device the width of a human hair that can be implanted in the brain and deliver drugs remotely, a statement released by Washington State University said.
The technology, demonstrated for the first time in mice, makes use of earlier work in optogenetics – a technology that uses light to control neurons that have been genetically sensitized to light. Combining techniques from optics and genetics allows for targeted, fast control of precise events in the biological system of mammals – in this case, releasing medication directly to the brain.
“Now, we literally can deliver drug therapy with the press of a button,” said Jordan G. McCall, PhD, a graduate student in the Bruchas lab at Washington University.
After developing a four-chamber device to house medication and the microscopic pumps required to release it, the team ran an initial test by releasing a neuronal stimulant on the side of a mouse’s brain that involves motor control. The next step involved researchers using light to trigger a reward chemical in the brains of mice when they entered specific areas of a maze. Researchers found that, in subsequent tests, that even without stimulation, the mice would return to that same area, seeking that initial “feel good” sensation. Researchers then used the implanted device to release a drug that prevents dopamine from sticking to cells, changing the behavior of the mice.
Researchers hope to ultimately use this technology to treat pain, depression, epilepsy, and other neurological disorders in people. For now, its use in animals can help use better understand the link between brain function and behavior.