For years, large clinical trials have treated people with epilepsy using so-called deep-brain stimulation: surgically implanted electrodes that can detect a seizure and stop it with an electrical jolt. The technology leads to a 69 percent reduction in seizures after five years, according to the latest results.
Tracy Cui, a biomedical engineer at the University of Pittsburgh, hopes to improve upon that statistic. Her group has designed an electrode that would deliver both an electrical pulse and antiseizure medication. “We know where we want to apply the drug,” Cui says, “so you would not need a lot of it.”
To build the device, Cui’s team immersed a metal electrode in a solution containing two key ingredients: a molecule called a monomer and the drug CNQX. Zapping the solution with electricity causes the monomers to link together and form a long chain called a polymer. Because the polymer is positively charged, it attracts the negatively charged CNQX, leaving the engineers with their target product: an electrode coated in a film that’s infused with the drug.
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