Scientists deliver drugs, light directly to brain cells

Scientists have developed a novel approach to manipulating brain cells using a smartphone and a brain implant. The team of scientists from Korea and the U.S. has teamed up to create a soft neural implant that is capable of delivering multiple drugs and colored lights directly to brain cells. The device is believed to have uses in treating brain diseases like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, addiction, depression, and pain.

The soft implantable device can control neural circuits and is controlled using Bluetooth low-energy and a smartphone. The wireless neural device uses a Lego-like replaceable drug cartridge and can target specific neurons of interest using light and drugs for prolonged periods. Researchers say that the wireless implant enables chronic chemical and optical neuromodulation that has been unachieved with other devices.

The team says that other approaches to delivering drugs and light therapy directly into the brain involve using rigid metal tubes and optical fibers. The problems with those approaches is that the equipment limits the movement of the patient, and over time, the rigid structure leads to lesions in the soft brain tissue. The scientists have solved this with the new device they have invented that doesn't require bulky equipment and complex controls.

The team believes that the device could allow the study of the same brain circuits for several months without worrying they will run out of drugs thanks to the replaceable drug canisters. In experiments, the team of scientists implanted the device into the brains of mice using a soft and ultrathin probe about as thick as a human hair.

The probe has microfluidic channels and tiny LEDs smaller than a grain of salt that allows for unlimited drug doses and light delivery. The team believes that the device would help the medical world to develop new ways to treat pain, addiction, and emotional disorders.