The futuristic device could offer hope for people with neurodegenerative disorders, particularly Parkinson’s disease.
At Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a team of scientists created a hair-thin implant that is supposed to be inserted directly into the brain of the patient. Although the concept sounds like it’s from a movie, the device has already been tested on lab rats and monkeys- and shown great promise.
The device, named “miniaturized neural drug delivery system” or MiNDS for short, consists of two stainless steel needles for injections and two programmable pumps that hold the medications. The hair-thin needles are inserted into the desired part of the brain through a hole in the skull, while the tiny pumps sit atop the head. Granted, this is still a prototype version of the device, and it is expected that the researchers will come up with a way to conceal the pumps under the skin.
The idea of having a programmable implant in one’s brain might sound scary, but for people with neurodegenerative disorders, a device like this could be the breakthrough they desperately need. For example, people who have Parkinson’s disease often have to come to terms with the fact that the only treatment available for their condition also causes severe long-term consequences on their health. The reason? Introducing drugs can be only done through cerebrospinal fluid, which is what induces these off-target effects.
With MiNDS, patients that live with neurodegenerative conditions would have the advantage of their medications being delivered precisely to a specific cluster of neurons. This guarantees that the affected area of the brain is the one being treated and removes the possibility of side-effects. In addition to the ability to target brain areas as small as one cubic millimeter, the device has the option to monitor the drug’s effects in real time, allowing the doctors to tweak the treatment as needed.
Although the experiments done on macaque monkeys and rats were a success, the device is still a long way from being used on people. The implications of seriously invasive procedures such as this one, as well as the potential complications that could occur, still require further study before the human trials even begin.
Nevertheless, the therapeutic potential of MiNDS is fascinating, and thoughts of any future developments are beyond exciting.
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