Researchers at the University of Glasgow are collaborating on a pan-European initiative that aims to pioneer a new approach for treating a broad array of neurological disorders.
The project, known as Wireless Deep Brain Stimulation Through Engineered Multifunctional Nanomaterials or BRAINSTORM, is focused on developing small, injectable magnets that could aid in restoring functionality to damaged neurons in the human brain.
The team behind BRAINSTORM is optimistic that their work could offer treatment, and possibly even a cure, for conditions such as depression, panic attacks, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease.
These nanoscale magnets, once developed, are planned to be injected into rodents’ circulatory systems for preclinical trials. They will be manipulated via external magnets to provide targeted neurostimulation to specific neurons within their brains.
Neurostimulation, which employs electrical currents or magnetic fields to influence nerve or neural circuit activity, is currently applied to address various brain-related disorders. Typically, this involves surgical implantation of electrodes that deliver the treatment.
Over the upcoming four years, the University of Glasgow’s researchers will collaborate with their counterparts from Germany, Italy, Spain, and Finland to further develop BRAINSTORM technology, which aims for better outcomes through less invasive techniques.
This joint effort has garnered €3 million (£2.57 million) in funding from the European Innovation Council’s Pathfinder program, which offers financial support for the advancement of emerging groundbreaking technologies.
Leading the University of Glasgow’s role in BRAINSTORM is Hadi Heidari, a Professor of Nanoelectronics at the James Watt School of Engineering.
He and his group, housed in the School’s Microelectronics Lab, are in the process of developing a helmet-like wearable device. This device will employ magnets to precisely steer the nanomaterials, enabling accurate neuromodulation treatments within the brain.
Professor Heidari stated, “Neuromodulation has shown significant promise in treating a range of conditions. However, the existing methods often necessitate invasive surgeries for electrode implantation, which are costly, painful, and pose additional infection risks.”
“Through BRAINSTORM, we see a thrilling new pathway for delivering wireless neuromodulation. The project taps into recent advancements in nanofabrication, materials science, and medical research to provide us with novel methods to accurately ‘turn on’ or ‘turn off’ neural activity for therapeutic purposes.”
“I am delighted to be working alongside European colleagues on this research and eagerly anticipate the development of key technologies that could offer patients new treatment options in the years ahead.”
Headed by Professor Danijela Gregurec of Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg in Germany, the BRAINSTORM project also involves contributions from researchers at CIC biomaGUNE in Spain, Tor Vergata University in Italy, and the University of Helsinki in Finland, in addition to the University of Glasgow.
For more details about BRAINSTORM, you can visit https://www.brainstorm-project.eu.