Wireless, implantable device to stimulate nerves soon

New York, Aug 18 (IANS) Scientists have created a miniature device that combines optogenetics – using light to control the activity of the brain – with a novel technique for wirelessly powering implanted devices.

The device is small enough to be implanted under the skin and may even be able to trigger a signal in muscles or some organs, which were previously not accessible to optogenetics.

Researchers said the device and the novel powering mechanism open the door to a range of new experiments to better understand and treat mental health disorders, movement disorders and diseases of the internal organs.

“This is a new way of delivering wireless power for optogenetics. It’s much smaller and the mouse can move around during an experiment,” said Ada Poon, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at Stanford University.

The device can be assembled and reconfigured for different uses in a lab, and the plans for the power source are publicly available

Traditionally, optogenetics has required a fibre optic cable attached to a mouse’s head to deliver light and control nerves.

This can stress the mouse, possibly altering the outcome of the experiment.

People have successfully investigated a range of scientific questions including how to relieve tremors in Parkinson’s disease, the function of neurons that convey pain and possible treatments for stroke.

However, addressing issues with a social component like depression or anxiety or that involve mazes and other types of complex movement is more challenging when the mouse is tethered.

Poon said that developing the tiny device to deliver light was the easy part. What was hard was figuring out how to power it over a large area without compromising power efficiency.

The findings were described in the journal Nature Methods.

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