By: Nick Gambino
MIT scientists have invented a tiny deep-brain implant that can regularly deliver drugs into your body from within.
There’s a constant need for a way to more effectively target drugs to various areas in the body, especially the hard-to-get-at spots. This method seemingly accomplishes that. By targeting areas of the brain as tiny as 1 cubic millimeter, they can treat brain diseases that are nearly impossible to properly medicate.
The technology they’ve invented is called MiNDS (miniaturized neural drug delivery system). It consists of a thin needle, about the size of a human hair. The needle is filled with even smaller tubes and then inserted into the brain through the skull.
Once it finds its place it works in wireless connection with two pumps that carry the drug, also inserted into the brain. This system can be monitored and programmed from outside the body thanks to feedback and wireless control.
So far MiNDS has proven effective in rats and monkeys. Now we have to see if it’ll work on humans. If so, this could be a revolutionary step in treating brain disease and mental illness. The ability to take the guesswork out of treatment and work on problem areas directly would be huge.
“We believe this tiny microfabricated device could have tremendous impact in understanding brain diseases, as well as providing new ways of delivering biopharmaceuticals and performing biosensing in the brain,” Rob Langer, a professor at MIT stated.
One of the things they’re hoping to do away with is harmful side effects from current treatment methods. Because most treatment is taken orally, they tend to have a shotgun effect, messing with non-malignant areas. And because you’re messing with the brain, the side effects can be as bad as the disease itself.
“One of the problems with central nervous system drugs is that they’re not specific, and if you’re taking them orally they go everywhere,” Michael Cima, a senior author of the paper on MiNDS said. “The only way we can limit the exposure is to just deliver to a cubic millimeter of the brain, and in order to do that, you have to have extremely small cannulas.”
While they’re still early on in the process and have yet to move to human trials, the future looks bright with a procedure that can effectively treat brain disorders with precision.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nick Gambino is a regular script writer and tech beat reporter for NewsWatch. He lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and daughter.