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Department of Engineering

A new treatment for epilepsy

A new treatment for epilepsy

Cambridge research into a new technology to treat epilepsy and other neurological disorders has featured on BBC News.

The benefit of having a small device directly in the brain is that drugs can be delivered exactly where they’re needed, which is highly effective, and therefore, you can mitigate against side effects.

Dr Christopher Proctor

Borysiewicz Biomedical Science Fellow Dr Christopher Proctor has been working on an electronic device that sits on the brain and ‘senses’ when a patient is having a seizure. It does this by picking up on changes in the brain’s electrical activity, before delivering a drug to treat the seizure. A tiny needle – the width of two human hairs – is inserted into the brain and it is this needle which delivers the drug to a targeted area.

Dr Proctor says the device works similarly to cells in the brain and could crucially bypass the blood-brain barrier which helps protect the brain. The blood-brain barrier typically creates difficulties when it comes to treating brain disorders and stops many drugs getting through – but this device could change that. It is hoped that testing can begin in humans within five years.

“The benefit of having a small device directly in the brain is that drugs can be delivered exactly where they’re needed, which is highly effective, and therefore, you can mitigate against side effects,” said Dr Proctor. “We’ve found that a small amount of drug can go a very long way when it is delivered in the right location.”

The work represents another advance in the development of soft, flexible electronics that interface well with human tissue. It builds on prior collaborative research involving Dr Proctor and Professor George Malliaras, Prince Philip Professor of Technology, who led the research, that successfully demonstrated how an electronic device implanted directly into the brain can detect, stop and even prevent epileptic seizures.

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