Researchers at McGill University in Canada have developed a method for creating and delivering brain implants that have a consistency similar to the brain itself, which is soft gelatinous tissue. Delicate silicone implants are created with sugar molds and delivered with a sugar needle, and their delicate consistency helps ensure they cause minimal irritation to the brain and reduce the foreign body’s chances of response.
Brain implants have a variety of uses, from identifying the regions of the brain responsible for epilepsy to producing brain stimulation. However, its use is somewhat limited by its tendency to provoke a foreign body response and cause damage to the surrounding tissue. The brain is very delicate, with the consistency of Jell-O. Until now, brain implants have consisted of stiffer materials, which have caused tissue damage.
A softer implant would help reduce tissue irritation, but it poses challenges in terms of fabrication and insertion into the brain. To address this, McGill researchers resorted to an amazing material: sugar. They created small brain implants with silicone. The implants are incredibly soft and have the thickness of the sewing thread.
Normally, it would be very difficult to create these implants in a mold, as they would deteriorate when attempted to be removed. To solve this, the researchers created molds with sugar and, once the silicone solidified, dissolved the molds.
Then, to deliver the implants to the brain, the researchers wrapped them in a sugar coating. When the sugar needle is inserted into the brain tissue, it dissolves quickly and leaves the silicone in place. Sugar itself is metabolized in the brain. Implants appear to cause a reduction in the foreign body’s response when tested in rats.
“The implants we created are so soft that the body doesn’t see it as a big threat, allowing them to interact with the brain with less interference,” said Edward Zhang, a researcher involved in the study, through a press release. “I am excited about the future of brain implant technology and believe that our work is helping to pave the way for a new generation of soft implants that can make brain implants a more viable medical treatment.”
“By reducing the inflammatory response of the brain, our new very soft implants are a good thing for the brain and a good thing for the long-term function of an implant,” said Tim Kennedy, another researcher involved in the ‘study. “The miniature sugar needle designed by Zhang is a sweet solution for placing the super soft implant in an equally soft brain tissue.”
Watch a video on the technique:
Study a Advanced materials technologies: Mechanically matched silicone brain implants reduce the brain’s foreign body response
Via: McGill University