Drug-infused polymer implants, which can deliver small amounts of medication directly into the brain, may help treat people have epilepsy, experiments on rats have shown.
Professor Mark Cook of St Vincent's Hospital in Melbourne said that animal tests suggested that the use of such an implant might cut the frequency, length, and severity of seizures.
While making a presentation at the Asia-Pacific Symposium on Nanobionics in Wollongong this week, he said that his approach would keep side effects to a minimum because it requires delivering only a small amount of drug to close to the source of the seizure.
He told the conference that the toxicity and dose levels of most epilepsy drugs left about 31 per cent of patients with adverse side effects like rashes, nausea, vision impairment, hair loss, weight gain, etc.
Cook said that the system that Bionic Technologies Australia - a collaboration between St Vincent's Hospital, CSIRO, the Bionic Ear Institute and the University of Wollongong - had developed was could deliver small amounts of anticonvulsant drugs directly into the patient's head.
He revealed that the system used a biodegradable polymer, which could be infused with the drug and surgically placed in the brain.
During the study, the researchers placed polymer sheets a few millimetres square infused with a very weak anticonvulsant drug between the skull and the brain of some rats, and then injected them with a tetanus toxin to induce spontaneous seizures.
Cook said that using only 300 micrograms of the drug showed a noticeable reduction in the severity, duration, and the frequency of seizures the rats experienced.
"The ability to use much smaller doses opens the way to use drugs that are potentially too dangerous to use when given by mouth because of the side effects," ABC Online quoted Cook as saying.
"The downside is we have to make a hole in someone's head," he added.
He even revealed that his team was planning to conduct start human studies in another 12 to 24 months.