Researchers Develop Brain Implants That Draw Power From Patient's Breathing

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Researchers Develop Brain Implants That Draw Power From Breathing

Brain implants or brain simulators can be a boon to people who are suffering from neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease. Now, according to a new study, researchers have managed to develop a method to charge the implants just by breathing movements.

 

The study has been published in the journal Cells Report Physical Sciences. This new method will enable them to eliminate the messy mechanics required to charge an object inside a human body. For instance, a cerebric pacemaker sends electrical pulses into the brain through wires in order to regulate brain activity.

How Will The New Brain Implant Help Patients?

Brain implants help patients mitigate the stiffness and tremors that come with Parkinson’s disease. Recently, brain implants have also proven helpful in the treatment of depression. However, brain simulators still have a lot of room for improvement. They require surgeries every 2-3 years for swapping batteries, which is an expensive and physically taxing affair.

Now, researchers at the University of Connecticut have devised a brain simulator that uses energy generated by breathing movements of the patient’s chest. The implant harnesses triboelectric charging where static electricity is generated through friction.

The team used this effect by applying a triboelectric nanogenerator near the chest wall. When the patient inhales and exhales, the wall rubs against the generator, which creates a current to charge a supercapacitor, powering the brain simulator.

"We wanted to make this fit in with the rest of the available technology in the usual way," said Jim Rusling, coauthor of the new paper. "In principle, if someone already has a deep brain stimulator, we could just replace the battery with this generator without having to retrofit them with a wholly new device."

Is It Safe For Human Brains?

As of now, the team has tested the nanogenerator in the simulated chest of a pig with a real lung of a pig. During their experiments, the nanogenerator managed to draw power from the pig’s lung when it inhaled and exhaled. However, the team attached the brain simulator to the brain of a mouse and not a pig.

"This is the first system that combines all the pieces; efficient energy harvesting, energy storage, and the controlled brain stimulator," said Islam Mosa, coauthor of the study. "We demonstrated that our self-sustainable deep brain stimulator can intermittently stimulate the brain tissue by alternating periods of stimulation and periods of no stimulation which is an effective deep brain stimulation approach for treating psychiatric conditions."

After the successful experiment, the team hopes to test their self-sufficient system in large animals. And, if everything goes according to their plan, we might soon see a fully functional simulator for human brains.

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