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article imageSkull implant breakthrough helps with brain disorders

By Tim Sandle     Oct 11, 2016 in Science
A novel transparent skull implant has been created. The device will allow laser-based treatments for brain disorders to be conducted. Disorders that could be treated include brain cancers, traumatic brain injuries, neurodegenerative diseases and stroke.
The objective of the research has been to produce a skull implant that helps medics to perform laser treatments for brain disorders, avoiding a risky operation called a craniotomy (where the skull is opened). The new method allows a laser to be used for guidance and for medicines to be administered.
The cranial implant is fashioned from a biocompatible material (which means it will not adversely react with the human body); the implant is also coated as to avoid bacterial contamination. Inspiration for the device, QMed reports, came from a development with hip implants, called yttria-stabilized zirconia. This implant is an impact resistant ceramic material. The material is created by the crystal structure of zirconium dioxide being made stable at room temperature through an addition of yttrium oxide. The material is useful for implants due to its hardness and chemical inertness.
The brain implant was based on a similar material, although the material is rendered transparent to help guide the laser used in the subsequent surgical procedure. Along the course of the development the use of other candidate materials, like titanium or thermo-plastic polymers, were considered and rejected. With the selected material, safety has been assessed by measuring parameters such as blood vessel diameter, blood flow and vascular permeability around the implant.
The brain implant has been constructed to allow light to pass through the scalp tissue covering the implant, this temporarily renders the skin transparent. This transparency allows for medics to select areas in the brain where microneedles can be passed through in order to deliver medications to help treat a range of neurological disorders, as well as brain cancer and trauma.
The research project is a collaborative effort between scientists in the U.S. (University of California Riverside and the University of California San Diego) who have worked with researchers in Mexico (Centro de Investigación Científica y de Educación Superior de Ensenada). The project is dubbed “The Window To The Brain.” Following successful animals trials, the next step is a clinical test.
The research has been published in the journal Lasers in Surgery and Medicine, with the paper titled “Evaluation of laser bacterial anti-fouling of transparent nanocrystalline yttria-stabilized-zirconia cranial implant.”
In related news scientists from Case Western University (Ohio) produced a brain-computer interface that can bypass spinal injuries. This implant helps paralyzed patients to move their limbs.
More about Skull implant, Implants, Brain disorder, Laser
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