Miniature Needle Delivers Drugs Directly to Brain Cells

March
2018

A needle as thin as a human hair can deliver micro-doses of drugs to millimeter-sized regions deep within the brain.

This new microneedle, engineered by a team of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), could be used to treat conditions as varied as epilepsy, stroke, traumatic brain injury, and cancer. And, it could one day be used to deliver tiny amounts of pharmaceuticals to other organs, as well, says lead researcher Canan Dagdeviren, a materials scientist at MIT.

The system is so small that the damage it does upon insertion into the brain is difficult to detect, says Michael Cima, a professor of materials science and engineering at MIT. The dimensions are mindboggling: The research team has engineered needles with diameters of 200 μm that are up to 10 cm long.

“The fact that you can do this without having it buckle, that’s a discovery,” Cima says. “Going into it, I didn’t think it was going to be possible.”

The device, which the researchers call the miniaturized neural drug-delivery system — MiNDS for short — is a stainless steel needle embedded with two drug-delivery channels, each 20 μm in diameter, and a 75-μm tungsten electrode that senses changes in brain activity. Dagdeviren used microfabrication techniques to build this minuscule system. First, she created...

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