When treating disorders of specific parts of the brain, one of the problems with taking drugs orally or intravenously is the fact that they affect the whole brain, potentially causing side effects. With this in mind, scientists from MIT have developed an ultra-thin needle that can deliver tiny doses of medication to parts of the brain as small as one cubic millimeter.
Called MiNDS (miniaturized neural drug delivery system), the device consists of several tubes that are contained within one cannula that's about the width of a human hair. Each of those tubes (or "channels") has a diameter of approximately 30 micrometers, and can deliver a different type of medication.
In lab tests, the researchers connected the cannulas to small pumps that could be implanted under the skin, then used one channel to deliver a drug known as muscimol to the substantia nigra region of live rats' brains. As predicted, this caused the rats to exhibit Parkinson's-like symptoms. Those symptoms were halted, however, when another channel was used to deliver a dose of saline solution, which washed the muscimol away.
The cannulas can reportedly be made in nearly any length or thickness, for use in different sizes of animals – including humans. Additionally, instead of tubes, the channels can also take the form of fiber optics for treating neurological disorders with light, or electrodes that monitor how the electrical activity of neurons changes after drug treatment.
"Even if scientists and clinicians can identify a therapeutic molecule to treat neural disorders, there remains the formidable problem of how to delivery the therapy to the right cells — those most affected in the disorder," says team member Prof. Ann Graybiel. "Because the brain is so structurally complex, new accurate ways to deliver drugs or related therapeutic agents locally are urgently needed."
A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
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