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LED brain implants to fight Parkinson's disease

LED brain implants to

fight Parkinson's disease

Lighting up neurons with tiny LEDs, Associate Professor Farshad Moradi hopes to modulate brain circuit in order to cure a wide range of diseases. Illustration: Farshad Moradi.

Aarhus University researchers have launched a multi-million euro project that aims to use wireless micro-scale implants inside the living brain to cure movement disorders using LED light.

With a European Union (EU) grant of more than DKK 28 million, researchers aim to enter the living brain with micro-robotics in a treatment that could have a monumental effect on curing movement disorders like Parkinson’s disease in the future.

The project is called STARDUST, and it uses wirelessly controlled microscopic implants that illuminate selected brain neurons with LED light and even carry an internal drug delivery system. This is something that has never been done before.

“Until now, electrical stimulation in the brain has affected all neurons in the targeted area. With this project, we can target individual neurons using optogenetics with a completely wireless micro-scale device,” says Associate Professor Farshad Moradi.

Massive impact
The tiny device is just 200 cubic micrometres in size. If successful, it will be very versatile, since it will be able to modulate brain circuit activity with artificial light, deliver drugs and record signals from the target brain cells. Power supply comes from harvesting energy from ultrasonic waves using a piezoelectric device.

“The main challenge is to provide the tiny device with sufficient energy using ultrasonic waves. That is why we have to use very, very low-power electronic chips and very efficient materials,” Associate Professor Moradi says.

The project was launched on 1 October 2017 and will run for four years. STARDUST is funded by the prestigious Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) actions, under Horizon 2020 – the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation.

“This project, if it proves successful, could have a massive impact on the future clinical treatment of a wide variety of disorders - not just movement disorders, but also diseases like brain cancer,” says Farshad Moradi.