Silk brain implant releases seizure-reducing epilepsy drugs


Implants are safe to use in rats and may one day be used in the clinic

According to a recent study,1 silk implants placed in the brain of lab animals and designed to release adenosine, may help stop the progression of epilepsy.

Earlier studies have suggested abnormally low levels of adenosine may be linked to epilepsy; the chemical also decreases neuronal excitability and helps to stop seizures. In the new study silk implants designed to release adenosine were placed into rat brains to stop the spread of epilepsy.

Rebecca Williams-Karnesky and her colleagues from Legacy Research Institute, Portland, Oregon Health and Sciences University (OHSU), Portland, and Tufts University, Boston, looked at the long-term effects of an adenosine-releasing silk-implant therapy in rats and examined the role of adenosine in causing epigenetic changes that may be associated with the development of epilepsy.

The findings show that the implants are safe to use in rats and suggest that they may one day be used in the clinic.

‘Adenosine-releasing silk is a biodegradable implant. The release of adenosine occurs for 10 days and then the silk will completely dissolve. This is an ideal set-up for a transient preventative treatment,’ said Dr Boison. ‘Clinical applications could be the prevention of epilepsy following head trauma or the prevention of seizures that often – in about 50% of patients – follow conventional epilepsy surgery. In this case, adenosine-releasing silk might be placed into the resection cavity to prevent future seizures.’

However, before the silk implants are ready for human use, future studies will need to determine their optimal use and safety in humans and the researchers will also need to demonstrate how long the effects of the adenosine-releasing silk implant will last.


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1. R.L. Williams-Karnesky et al. Journal of Clinical Investigation, July 25, 2013.