Researchers at McGill University in Canada have developed a method to create and deliver brain implants that are a similar in consistency to the brain itself, which is a soft gelatinous tissue. The delicate silicone implants are created using sugar molds and delivered using a sugar needle, and their delicate consistency helps to ensure that they cause minimal irritation within the brain and reduce the chances of a foreign body response.
Brain implants have a variety of uses, from identifying the regions of the brain responsible for epilepsy to producing brain stimulation. However, their use is somewhat limited by their 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. To date, brain implants have consisted of stiffer materials, resulting in tissue damage.
A softer implant would help to reduce tissue irritation, but poses challenges in terms of manufacturing and insertion into the brain. To address this, the McGill researchers turned to a surprising material – sugar. They created tiny brain implants using silicone. The implants are incredibly soft and are the thickness of sewing thread.
Typically, it would be very difficult to create such implants in a mold, as they would be damaged when you attempt to remove them. To get around this, the researchers created molds using sugar, and then once the silicone had solidified, they simply dissolved the molds away.
Then, to deliver the implants into the brain, the researchers encased them in a sugar coating. When the sugar ‘needle’ is inserted into brain tissue it quickly dissolves away, leaving the silicone in place. The sugar itself is then metabolized in the brain. The implants appear to cause a reduced foreign body response when they were 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, via a press release. “I am excited about the future of brain implant technology and believe our work helps pave the path for a new generation of soft implants that could make brain implants a more viable medical treatment.”
“By reducing the brains inflammatory response, 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 devised by Zhang is a sweet solution to placing the super-soft implant into equally soft brain tissue.”
See a video about the technique:
Study in Advanced Materials Technologies: Mechanically Matched Silicone Brain Implants Reduce Brain Foreign Body Response
Via: McGill University