Scientists from the University of California have developed a new approach to directly control brain cells without surgery. This will help in the treatment of epilepsy and recovery from strokes, as well as lead to breakthroughs in other areas.
The scientists reported the discovery in the journal Advanced Science . The technique was called “magneto-mechanical stimulation” . The approach allows using a magnet outside the human body to stimulate certain brain cells. We are talking about the so-called glial cells of the brain, of which there are quite a few types and all of them play an auxiliary role, which, however, does not reduce their importance for the life of neurons and the human nervous system as a whole.
Scientists drew attention to a specific type of glial cells – astrocytes . They perform many functions at the same time and even during strokes they can turn into neurons, thereby replacing the affected nerve tissue. For all their other virtues, astrocytes are sensitive to touch. This is what made it possible to develop a technique for non-invasive impact on these cells. All that is required is to deliver a mass of nanomagnets to the astrocytes. Nanomagnetic dust adheres to astrocytes and an external magnet simply “shakes” them at the operator’s command.
Delivery of nanomagnets to the right areas of the brain today is also not a problem, which scientists have worked out on laboratory rats. There are certain antibodies that cling to astrocytes. The antibodies are mixed with nanomagnetic dust and injected, after which the bloodstream itself delivers magnets to the target group of astrocytes, where they will be fixed. The magnets on the astrocytes also help highlight areas of the brain being studied on MRI scanners, further facilitating examinations.