Plan for brain repair microdevice wins top prize at entrepreneur's forum

September 04, 2012

By David Martin

Randolph Nudo, Ph.D.

A business plan for a medical device developed by a neurobiologist at the University of Kansas Medical Center and an electrical engineer at Case Western Reserve University took top prize at a recent new venture forum.

The electronic device bridges damaged pathways in the brain, holding promise for the treatment of traumatic brain injury and stroke. A prototype of the device has been tested successfully in rats.

Randolph J. Nudo, Ph.D., professor of molecular and integrative physiology and director of the Landon Center on Aging, and Pedram Mohseni, Ph.D., associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Case Western, presented a commercialization plan for the technology at the American Society for Artificial Internal Organs conference. The plan won first prize at the conference's first annual Medical Device Entrepreneur's Forum. 

The microdevice is an implant that generates electrical impulses. Electrodes detect signals from the brain, decode them and then stimulate the area of the brain that's become disconnected. The technology is similar in concept to an implanted defibrillator; but instead of monitoring the heart, the microdevice monitors and interprets neurons firing in the brain.

"We're basically trying to reproduce the process that the brain uses during development and that it tries to accomplish after injury, but with electronic components that will artificially bridge these areas," says Nudo.

A prototype of the device, powered by a simple watch battery, was implanted into rats with brain injuries. In tests, the rats were able to grab a pellet and perform other tasks that they were unable to do without the treatment. Nudo and his collaborators have submitted a paper about the rat study to a major journal for review.

We think this is a game changer," Nudo says. "There really has not been anything like this."

The next step is to design and build a device for testing on primates, with the ultimate goal to design a device for humans. If successful, the device could augment and potentially replace rehabilitation therapy, which is often time-consuming and expensive. "You just implant it and it basically fixes the brain pathways that are injured," Nudo says.

The research has been supported by grants from the U.S. Department of Defense and the American Heart Association.

Last modified: Nov 07, 2013