Epilepsy is one of the chronic neurological disorders that is plaguing nearly 50 million people across the world. Apart from the terrible seizures, what makes it really worse, is that fact that there are no viable treatment options for epilepsy.
In a latest development, researchers from the University of Cambridge have created a brain implant that can stop epileptic seizures in its tracks.
How does it work?
Neurons in the brain are always firing electrical impulses to relay information. But in an epileptic seizure, the brain goes into overdrive, causing an ‘electric storm’ of impulses getting fired in a haphazard manner. This interferes with motor control leading to loss of consciousness as well.
Although there are other scientists who have developed implants that toasts the brain with electricity to stop seizures, this implant works quite differently.
It is an electronic chip implant that can detect the ‘electric storm’ in the brain when an epileptic seizure starts and releases natural chemicals to block brain cells which cause the fits.
On detection of electrical signals that are created when a seizure begins, an ion pump is triggered. This pump releases a chemical called GABA, which stops the seizure-causing brain cells from firing properly.
Generally, epilepsy is treated with anti-seizure drugs, but they can have serious side effects. In fact, three out of 10 patients don’t respond to the treatment at all. In such cases, these brain implants may prove to be a boon.
The researchers have successfully tested the brain implant in mice. Now they are aiming to scale up the device which is currently twice as thick as human hair and preparing them for human trials in the next few years.