Scientists at MIT are developing tiny brain implants as thin as a strand of hair to treat diseases like Parkinson’s.
The electrode devices currently implanted in Parkinson’s patients provide relief through electrical stimulation but they often stop working within six months and can cause scarring to brain tissue. To test the theory that making them smaller and softer would reduce these negative side effects, the MIT team tried them out at different sizes and with and without a hydrogel coating. In mice the best combination proved to be 30 microns in diameter and uncoated.
“Before this paper, no one really knew the effects of size. Softer is better, but not if it makes the electrode larger,” said Professor Michael Cima, a member of MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research.
And his team have had some early success in making device at these dimensions that can provide electrical stimulation and drug delivery.
“It’s one of those things that at first glance seems impossible. If you have 30-micron glass fibers, that’s slightly thicker than a piece of hair. But it is possible to do,” Cima added.
The breakthrough could transform treatment options for Parkinson’s and other neurological disorders.