Researchers from Boston and Oregon have developed a silk implant that may help stop the progression of epilepsy.
This biodegradable implant is designed to release adenosine, a specific chemical compound when placed in the brain.
Following the release of adenosine for ten days, the silk gets completely dissolved.
The release of this compound decreases neuronal excitability and helps in stopping seizures. Earlier studies have suggested that abnormally low levels of adenosine may be linked to epilepsy.
Dr Rebecca L Williams-Karnesky and her colleagues from Legacy Research Institute, Portland, Oregon, Oregon Health and Sciences University (OHSU), Portland, and Tufts University, Boston, studied the long-term effects of silk-implanttherapy in rats.
They examined the role of adenosine in causing epigenetic changes that may be associated with the development of epilepsy.
Researchers found evidence that the changing adenosine levels affect DNA methylation in the brain. In particular, greater amounts of adenosine were associated with lower levels of DNA methylation.
They also demonstrated that rats induced to develop epilepsy have higher levels of methylated DNA.
Future studies will be required to determine their optimal use and safety in humans and also to demonstrate how long the effects of the adenosine-releasing silk implant will last.
Currently, about 25-30% patients suffering from epilepsy do not have effective therapies.
The research was supported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), which are part of the National Institutes of Health.