There is an exactness that must be taken into account when treating neurological disorders. In treating epilepsy, for example, a condition in which nerve cell activity in the brain is disturbed, causing seizures, a drug needs to be delivered directly to a specific brain region—but without negatively affecting healthy brain regions.
Scientists at the Institute of Systems Neuroscience (INS) in Marseille, France, with the help of scientists at the École des Mines de Saint-Étienne and Linköping University (Sweden), have developed a product: an electronic micropump which, when combined with an anticonvulsant drug, enables localized inhibition of epileptic seizure in brain tissue in vitro.
The micropump (20 times thinner than a hair strand) is made of a membrane, which has negative ions attached to its surface, and can attract small positively charged molecules. When an electrical current is applied, the flow of electrons generated projects these molecules—whether ions or medications—toward a target.
To test their technology, the researchers reproduced charged epileptic neurons in mice brains in vitro. When they injected GABA, a naturally-produced brain compound that inhibits neurons, into the hyperactive region using the micropump, they observed the following: GABA not just halted abnormal brain activity, it didn’t interfere with normal-functioning brain areas.
Although this research is in the early stages (the researchers are next working on in vivo animal models), it has implications for improved neurological treatments, down the line.
Epilepsy affects 65 million people around the world, according to the Epilepsy Foundation.
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Filed Under: Drug Discovery