Hitting the Pounds: Could We Zap Our Brains to Live Healthier Lives?

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Deep brain stimulation therapies have proven to be an invaluable treatment option for patients suffering from otherwise debilitating conditions like Parkinson’s disease. However, it – and its sister technology, brain-computer interfaces – currently suffers from a critical shortcoming: the electrodes that convert electron impulses into bioelectrical signals don’t mesh well with surrounding brain tissue. And that’s where the people in the lab coats and holding squids come in! In We Are Electric: Inside the 200-Year-Old Hunt for Our Body’s Bioelectric Code and What the Future Holds, Author Sally Adee delves into two centuries of research into an often misunderstood and maligned branch of scientific discovery, guiding readers of Alessandro Volta’s pioneering work to the life-saving applications that could become possible once doctors learn to communicate. directly with the cells of our body.

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Hachette Books

Extract of We Are Electric: Inside the 200-Year-Old Hunt for Our Body’s Bioelectric Code and What the Future Holds by Sally Adee. Copyright © 2023. Available from Hachette Books, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

lost in translation

“There is a fundamental asymmetry between the devices that drive our information economy and the tissues of the nervous system,” Bettinger said. The edge in 2018. “Your cell phone and computer use electrons and pass them back and forth as a fundamental unit of information. Neurons, however, use ions like sodium and potassium. This is important because, for make a simple analogy, it means you have to translate the language.

“One of the misnomers in the field is actually that I inject current through these electrodes,” says Kip Ludwig. “Not if I do it well, I don’t.” The electrons that travel along a platinum or titanium wire to the implant never reach your brain tissue. Instead, they line up on the electrode. This produces a negative charge, which attracts ions from surrounding neurons. “If I pull enough ions away from the tissue, I cause voltage-gated ion channels to open,” says Ludwig. This can – but not always – turn a nervous fire into an action potential. Put the nerves on fire. That’s it – it’s your only move.

This may seem counterintuitive: the nervous system works with action potentials, so why wouldn’t it work to simply try to write our own action potentials above those of the brain? The problem is that our attempts to write action potentials can be incredibly clumsy, says Ludwig. They don’t always do what we think they do. For one thing, our tools are nowhere near precise enough to only hit the exact neurons we’re trying to stimulate. Thus, the implant is in the middle of a group of different cells, sweeping and activating unrelated neurons with its electric field. Remember how I said the glia were traditionally considered the maintenance staff of the brain? Well, more recently it turned out that they also do information processing – and our clumsy electrodes would trigger them too, with unknown effects. “It’s like pulling the plug on your bathtub and trying to move just one of the three toy boats through the bath water,” says Ludwig. And even if we do manage to hit the neurons we’re trying to hit, there’s no guarantee that the stimulation will hit it in the right place.

To introduce electroceuticals into medicine, we really need better techniques for talking to cells. If the electron-ion language barrier is a barrier to communicating with neurons, it’s an absolute non-starter for cells that don’t use action potentials, like the ones we’re trying to target with interventions. next-gen electrics, including skin cells, bone cells, and the like. If we want to control the membrane tension of cancer cells to bring them back to normal behavior; whether we want to push wound current into skin or bone cells; if we want to control the fate of a stem cell, none of this is possible with our one and only tool of turning nerve fire into an action potential. We need a bigger toolbox. Fortunately, this is the goal of a growing field of research that seeks to manufacture devices, computing elements and cables capable of speaking to ions in their native language.

Several research groups are working on “mixed conduction”, a project whose goal is devices capable of talking about bioelectricity. It relies heavily on advanced plastics and polymers with long names that often include punctuation marks and numbers. If the goal is a DBS electrode that you can keep in the brain for more than ten years, these materials will need to interact safely with the body’s native tissues for much longer than they currently do. And this search is far from over. People naturally start asking themselves: why not just skip the middleman and make this product out of bio-materials instead of polymers? Why not learn how nature does it?

It has already been tried. In the 1970s there was a wave of interest in using coral for bone grafts instead of autografts. Instead of a traumatic double surgery to harvest the needed bone tissue from another part of the body, the coral implants acted as a scaffold to let the new bone cells in the body grow and form the new bone. Coral is naturally osteoconductive, which means new bone cells happily glide over it and find a nice place to proliferate. It is also biodegradable: after the bone grew on it, the coral was gradually absorbed, metabolized, and then excreted from the body. Steady improvements produced few inflammatory responses or complications. There are now several companies cultivating specialty coral for bone grafts and implants.

After the success of coral, people started to take a closer look at marine sources of biomaterials. This field is now changing rapidly – ​​thanks to new processing methods that have allowed many useful materials to be harvested from what was previously only marine litter, the last decade has seen an increasing number of biomaterials from marine organisms. . These include alternative sources for gelatin (snails), collagen (jellyfish) and keratin (sponges), the marine sources of which are abundant, biocompatible and biodegradable. And not just inside the body – one of the reasons interest in these has grown is the drive to move away from polluting synthetic plastics.

Besides all the other advantages of dupes of marine origin, they are also able to conduct an ion current. That’s what Marco Rolandi was thinking in 2010 when he and his colleagues at the University of Washington built a transistor from a piece of squid.

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Activating a Facebook account with a fake number has disadvantages and
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If you are new to this social networking platform then… Create a Facebook profile It can be stressful for you. So here are some tips to help you get started with Facebook:

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if you want it now Create a new Facebook account Using your phone number instead of your email address, you need to follow these steps:

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