EU funds project to develop nanodevices against epilepsy

Nanotechnology is being studied to develop revolutionary treatments for neurological conditions such as epilepsy. This technology involves the study and development of devices that could control
extremely small objects such as atoms and molecules. Researchers hope that these nanodevices could
could be used as brain implants that control the activity of neurons, reducing or stopping seizures.
The IN-FET project (Ion Neuromodulation Epilepsy Treatment) was launched in January 2020 and has recently been given a 3 Million Euro grant from the European Union. With the approved funding, the will be looking at using nanotechnology and looking at ions such as magnesium, potassium and calcium. These are the chemicals which allow neurons to communicate. Nanodevices could look at and control these ions, and importantly, their concentration. From here it should be possible to change their cell activity, meaning activating or turning off certain neurons. In epilepsy it’s the flow of ions that leads to the burst of electrical activity in the neurons, leading to seizures. Here the nanodevices would act as an ion trap, so they no longer excite the cells, preventing such seizures. Professor Michele Giugliano, is the director of the Neuronal Dynamics Lab at SISSA (Scuola Internazionale Superiore di Studi Avanzati) in Italy. She says Epilepsy is one of the most common neurological conditions affecting 50 Million people worldwide. Drug treatment is a widespread approach to fight it but for many people medication is no help. Epilepsy drugs prove ineffective with the condition. Drug resistance amongst adults ranges between 30% and 40%.
The European project brings together experts in nanoengineering information technology and neurobiology and is funded by the European programme Future Emerging Technologies (FET) Open. The initiative will involve IBM Research, Multi Channel Systems, the Universities of Geneva and Sheffield and the Italian Inter-University Consortium for Nanoelectronics, amongst other parties. The aim of the group will be to develop implantable devices that can alter the concentration of these microscopic ions. These devices will be able to measure the electrical activity of neurons and actively work to correct it.
Todays experimental therapies for restoring or repairing brain functions in neural conditions often involve changing or silencing hyperactive brain circuits explains Professor Guigliano. This can be done with medicines, gene therapy, or electrical or magnetic techniques to affect the brain. However all of these come with serious drawbacks. They unnaturally try and control these neurons. Our idea is to control ions, the very substances that the brain normally uses to function. Through this we’ll be able to discover and test new treatments for epilepsy.
Source Epilepsy Action