Fighting disease deep inside the brain

February 18, 2013

Some 90,000 patients per year are treated for Parkinson's disease, a number that is expected to rise by 25 percent annually. Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS), which consists of electrically stimulating the central or peripheral nervous system, is currently standard practice for treating Parkinson's, but it can involve long, expensive surgeries with dramatic side effects. Miniature, ultra-flexible electrodes developed in Switzerland, however, could be the answer to more successful treatment for this and a host of other health issues.

Today, Professor Philippe Renaud of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland reports on soft arrays of miniature developed in his Microsystems Laboratory that open new possibilities for more accurate and local DBS. At the 2013 Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Boston, in a symposium called "Engineering the Nervous System: Solutions to Restore Sight, Hearing, and Mobility," he announces the start of clinical trials and early, yet promising results in patients, and describes new developments in ultra-flexible electronics that can conform to the contours of the —in the brain itself—for treating other disorders.

At AAAS, Renaud outlines the technology behind these novel electronic interfaces with the nervous system, the associated challenges, and their immense potential to enhance DBS and treat disease, even how ultra flexible electronics could lead to the auditory implants of the future and the restoration of hearing. "Although Deep Brain Stimulation has been used for the past two decades, we see little progress in its ," Renaud says. "Microelectrodes have the potential to open new therapeutic routes, with more efficiency and fewer side effects through a much better and finer control of electrical activation zones." The preliminary clinical trials related to this research are being done in conjunction with EPFL spin-off company Aleva Neurotherapeutics, the first company in the world to introduce microelectrodes in leading to more precise directional stimulation.

Explore further: EPFL Deep Brain Stimulation spin-off raises 10 million Swiss francs

Related Stories

EPFL Deep Brain Stimulation spin-off raises 10 million Swiss francs

August 25, 2011
One of the biggest financing rounds for furthering the work of a doctoral student has just been completed at EPFL. The microscopic electrodes developed by André Mercanzini – which are currently in clinical trials ...

Chronic pain and shaking under control using 'pacemaker for the brain'

September 21, 2012
How does electrical stimulation affect the brain? A project by Aalto University and the University of Helsinki, launched in early 2012, studies the impact mechanism of deep brain stimulation and develops electrochemical sensors ...

Less-invasive method of brain stimulation helps patients with Parkinson's disease

October 16, 2012
Electrical stimulation using extradural electrodes—placed underneath the skull but not implanted in the brain—is a safe approach with meaningful benefits for patients with Parkinson's disease, reports the October issue ...

Next-generation brain stimulation may improve treatment of Parkinson's disease

October 19, 2011
Parkinson's disease (PD) is a devastating and incurable disease that causes abnormal poverty of movement, involuntary tremor, and lack of coordination. A technique called deep brain stimulation (DBS) is sometimes used to ...

Electrical stimulation of brain boosts birth of new cells, may improve memory

September 20, 2011
Stimulating a specific region of the brain leads to the production of new brain cells that enhance memory, according to an animal study in the September 21 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience. The findings show how deep ...

Recommended for you

Waterlogged brain region helps scientists gauge damage caused by Parkinson's disease

July 26, 2017
Scientists at the University of Florida have discovered a new method of observing the brain changes caused by Parkinson's disease, which destroys neurons important for movement. The development suggests that fluid changes ...

Parkinson's is partly an autoimmune disease, study finds

June 21, 2017
Researchers have found the first direct evidence that autoimmunity—in which the immune system attacks the body's own tissues—plays a role in Parkinson's disease, the neurodegenerative movement disorder. The findings raise ...

Predicting cognitive deficits in people with Parkinson's disease

June 20, 2017
Parkinson's disease (PD) is commonly thought of as a movement disorder, but after years of living with PD approximately twenty five percent of patients also experience deficits in cognition that impair function. A newly developed ...

Pre-clinical study suggests Parkinson's could start in gut endocrine cells

June 15, 2017
Recent research on Parkinson's disease has focused on the gut-brain connection, examining patients' gut bacteria, and even how severing the vagus nerve connecting the stomach and brain might protect some people from the debilitating ...

Hi-res view of protein complex shows how it breaks up protein tangles

June 15, 2017
Misfolded proteins are the culprits behind amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and other neurodegenerative brain disorders. These distorted proteins are unable to perform their normal ...

CRISPR tech leads to new screening tool for Parkinson's disease

June 5, 2017
A team of researchers at the University of Central Florida is using breakthrough gene-editing technology to develop a new screening tool for Parkinson's disease, a debilitating degenerative disorder of the nervous system. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.