A new polymer-covered electrode that has the potential to monitor and deliver drugs to an area of the brain where sign of a seizure is detected has been developed by a team of neuroscientists.
Xinyan Tracy Cui at the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and her colleagues came up with the idea of chemically influencing the brain along with electrical manipulation.
The team coated microelectrodes with an electrically conductive polypyrrole film, they then loaded pockets within the film with different drugs and neurotransmitters such as glutamate, GABA and dopamine, and attached the arrays to samples of rat brain tissue.
Applying an electrical current to the polymer caused it to change shape and release its drug cargo, which then acted on surrounding cells. Cui is currently working on replicating this demonstration in living rodents.
"Theoretically you could use the electrode arrays to monitor neural activity and once you detect a sign of a seizure you could pump anticonvulsive drugs at just the right location," New Scientist quoted Cui as saying.
One difficulty, however, is that once the polymer sheds its drugs it has no more to offer. One solution might be to add carbon nanotubes as drug reservoirs.We have the proof of concept for a simple but powerful technology that can be used with a variety of different drugs or biochemical molecules," Cui said.
"Because of its versatility, the potential applications are limitless," Cui added.