Kristopher Sturgis

October 10, 2016

3 Min Read
New Skull Implant Could Provide Therapy for Brain Disorders

Scientists in California and Mexico have developed a novel transparent skull implant that could enable laser-based treatments for brain disorders.

Kristopher Sturgis

Window to the Brain UC San DiegoA new collaboration of researchers known as "The Window To The Brain" research team has developed a new transparent skull implant that will allow for patients suffering from certain brain disorders to receive laser-based treatments to the brain. The technology would enable laser-based treatments without the need for a craniotomy, a highly invasive surgical procedure that opens up the skull.

The group consists of researchers from the University of California Riverside, the University of California San Diego, and three leading research institutions in Mexico. The Window to the Brain technology is a cranial implant made from a biocompatible material that was designed to resist bacterial infections. The group recently gathered last month in an effort to bring together a year's worth of work and research on the implant technology.

Recently we've seen a bevy of fascinating neuro tech advances surfacing, many of which have actually begun to make a significant impact on a variety of different patients. Just last year doctors from Case Western University in Ohio developed a brain-computer interface that can bypass spinal injuries, enabling paralyzed patients to move their limbs through the use of a brain implant.

In the case of the Window To The Brain technology, its genesis stems from the development of a transparent version of yttria-stabilized zirconia (YSZ), an impact resistant ceramic material that has been used for years in hip implants. The group decided to explore the feasibility of the material as a cranial implant and found that creating a transparent YSZ material could be ideal for laser-based therapies.

The implant itself is designed to allow light to pass through the scalp tissue covering the implant, and the group has begun fabricating microneedles that can deliver drugs that temporarily render the skin transparent as well. Once the skin becomes transparent, doctors will have the opportunity to administer laser-based treatments to the brain that could provide new therapy options to patients suffering from life-threatening neurological disorders, brain cancers, traumatic brain injuries, and even neurodegenerative diseases.

Last fall the group received significant funding from the National Science Foundation's Partnerships in International Research and Education (PIRE) program, a program that pairs U.S. universities with other international universities. The funding helped bring together the Mexican and American universities on this project. 

The leaders of the project also began discussion last month on how to advance the technology and prepare it for clinical application. The two-day symposium allowed for university professors and grad students alike to present their latest in research and designs, as well as an opportunity to discuss the next phase of the project. The group maintains an aim to establish the technology as an effective therapeutic solution for patients with brain disorders who could benefit from non-invasive laser-based treatment. 

Kristopher Sturgis is a contributor to Qmed.

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[Image courtesy of UC San Diego]

About the Author(s)

Kristopher Sturgis

Kristopher Sturgis is a freelance contributor to MD+DI.

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