Researchers developed new technique that using microscopic magnetic particles remotely activates brain cell, which could lead to new non-invasive treatments for neurological disorders
If controlling or stimulating brain cells becomes possible, it could offer many promising new ways to understand and develop novel therapies for neurological disorders. Now a team of scientists at University College London (UCL) demonstrated a new technique in mice that involves use of micromagnet that work as a miniature mechanical switch to activate touch-sensitive cells, and this could lead to development of novel techniques to control particular regions of the brain.
The new approach involving micromagnets targets brain cells termed as astrocytes, which can be found between the blood vessels of brain and nerve cells, and these cells are known to supply metabolic and structural support to neurons, as well as they regulate function of neuronal circuits. These cells were also found to be touch-sensitive. The scientists named this technology magnetomechanical stimulation (MMS). The team used small magnetic particles coated with an antibody. This method bind these particles selectively to astrocytes, which was demonstrated by injecting targeted brain parts in mice and then activated by putting a magnetic device near the head. This further switched on various signaling pathways that regulate various brain functions.
Moreover, as reported by the team, the magnetic particles illuminated on MRI scan, which allowed the researchers to trace their location in the brain with high precision. As this is a non-invasive technique, according to the scientists, it could lead to development of highly promising treatments for neurological diseases. The team is optimistic about clinical potential of this new technique. Unlike current methods, MMS uses the remarkable sensitivity to activate certain brain cells, which eliminates the need for genetic modification or device implantation.