Engineering Minute

Engineering Minute – Implant Tracks Brain Chemicals

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Researchers at Purdue University have developed an implantable sensor that tracks a patient's levels of glutamate, a chemical associated with increased migraine pain following a spinal cord injury. The small, flexible sensor is implanted on the spinal cord and records spikes in glutamate, which can happen in a split-second. When a patient's spinal cord or surrounding nerves are damaged, glutamate can leak out into the spaces between cells causing damage to surrounding tissues. Elevated glutamate levels have also been found in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's patients. The new implantable device is the first of it's kind to be sensitive and fast enough to record glutamate spikes for use in long-term research projects. 

 

"We wanted to create a low-cost and very fast way to build these sensors so that we can easily provide researchers with a means to measure glutamate levels in vivo," says Hugh Lee, assistant professor of biomedical engineering focusing on implantable microtechnologies at Purdue University.

 

An implantable sensor has the speed and precision for tracking a brain chemical known to be elevated in certain brain diseases and after a spinal cord injury.
An implantable sensor has the speed and precision for tracking a brain chemical known to be elevated in certain brain diseases and after a spinal cord injury. Credit: Purdue University

From the Purdue University article: "The researchers implanted the device into the spinal cord of an animal model and then injured the cord to observe a spike. The device captured the spike immediately, whereas for current devices, researchers have had to wait 30 minutes to get data after damaging the spinal cord.

In the future, the researchers plan to create a way for the biosensors to self-clear of inflammatory cells that the body recruits to protect itself. These cells typically form a fibrous capsule around the biosensor, which blocks its sensitivity.

The technology could also allow for implanting more sensors along the spinal cord, which would help researchers to know how far glutamate spreads and how quickly"

 

Read more about the implant that tracks brain chemicals at Purdue University