Nanoparticles stimulation to aid treatment of neurological conditions

July 22, 2020 0 By FM

Researchers at MIT have developed a new way to stimulate neurons using nanoparticles that may open up new possibilities for research and clinical practice in the treatment of Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, chronic pain, and other common neurological conditions .

Electrical stimulation and chemical pharmaceuticals are the two ways routinely used by the clinicians to manipulate neural cells. Chemicals have their side effects and are slow to take effect, and are usually systemically delivered, while electrical stimulation usually requires invasive wires, and is limited in its resolution, and is nearly mostly impossible to administer within certain parts of the brain. 
As neurons are sensitive to mechanical forces, including being squeezed and vibrated, the team created microscopic disc-shaped nanoparticles that can be made to resonate within a weak but carefully controlled magnetic field. The nanoparticles, each about 100 nanometers in width, can be injected en masse around neurons and made to vibrate with an external magnetic field. Since many of these particles can surround individual neurons, working together they can generate enough force to stimulate pressure receptors within neural cells. These receptors also exist within brain cells and neural cells around the spine, thus enhancing the potential role of the new approach for neural stimulation, say the researchers. 
“The nanodiscs are made from hematite, an iron oxide, that help in the therapy as they contain a vortex configuration of atomic spins when there are no external magnetic fields applied,” according to an MIT announcement. The discs are stable in solutions when outside of a magnetic field and just a few millitesla of a magnetic field, varying at a few hertz. As the field changes, so does the orientation of the discs, which results in a wobble, reveals the study.

The study has been published in the scientific journal ACS Nano.