University of Minnesota researchers are developing an implantable brain device to (one day) cure neurological disorders. In partnership with Mayo Clinic, the research team was awarded a nearly $1 million grant earlier this month to develop the chip. This novel device could potentially be applied to diseases like Parkinson’s disease, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and depression. Once a chip is developed, they seek to test the technology on animals.
As reported in the Minnesota Daily by Natalie Cierzan, the chip was developed by researchers at University of Minnesota, who patented the technology in 2015 by inventor Jian-Ping Wang. He and team members received a grant from the Minnesota Partnership for Biotechnology and Medical Genomics, a research collaboration between the University of Minnesota, Mayo Clinic and the state of Minnesota.
This chip contains electricity-conducting electrodes that, according to the researchers, will re-establish a normal activity pattern involved in the movement and other behaviors. And this may counter the likes of Parkinson’s which when impacted by Parkinson’s disease, becomes dysfunctional due to a loss of cells.
Holding more than 10,000 magnetic neurostimulators in a size of a penny, the device will be used in deep-brain stimulation, where it could be surgically implanted in the brain. By use of magnetic fields to produce electricity, it will actually stimulate the brain neurons, first by use of microcoils and then via magnetic energy made possible by electric current flowing through the device. As mentioned by PhD student Renata Saha, they are using Faraday’s Law—when a magnetic field in a circuit changes, an electric force is created proportionately to that change. And the researchers believe that the chip is less invasive in the brain due to the magnetic field. Moreover, the device, say the researchers, consumes less power than other electrodes in deep brain stimulation. Apparently, there is a trend in designing deep brain stimulation devices to mimic brain activities.
Jian-Ping Wang, Professor Electrical & Computer Engineering
Walter Low, professor and associate head of research, Department of Neurosurgery