CANDO: Controlling Abnormal Network Dynamics with Optogenetics
Collaborators: Dr Andrew Jackson, Professor Anthony O'Neil, Dr Patrick Degenaar, Dr Roger Whittaker, Dr Andrew Sims, Dr Mark Cunningham, Dr Marcus Kaiser, Dr Graeme Chester, Prof Hanns Lochmüller, Prof Stuart Baker (Newcastle University), Prof Nick Donaldson (UCL)
Funding: Wellcome Trust/Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Innovative Engineering for Health
CANDO is a world class multi-site cross-disciplinary project to develop a cortical implant for optogenetic neural control. The goal is to create a first-in-man trial of the device in patients with focal epilepsy. This 7 year, £10m Innovative Engineering for Health Award, funded by the Wellcome Trust and EPSRC involves a team of over 30 neuroscientists, engineers and clinicians based at Newcastle University, Imperial College London, University College London, and Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation.
Within the brain nerve cells connect together to generate rhythmic activity visible as brain waves on an EEG. In many neurological diseases this network is disrupted, producing abnormal patterns of activity. In epilepsy, abnormal activity can be localised to a small ‘focus’, but this can spread across the whole brain as a seizure. Epilepsy affects 600,000 people in the UK alone and uncontrolled seizures have a devastating effect on patients’ quality of life. Most cases respond to drugs, but if these are ineffective it may be necessary to surgically remove the ‘focus’. However, surgery is not suitable in all patients and can damage cognitive function.
This project, led by Dr Andrew Jackson and Professor Anthony O’Neill from Newcastle University, proposes an alternative based on a small implant that continuously records the abnormal activity and provides precisely timed stimulation to prevent it ever developing into a seizure. This requires that some cells within the focus are genetically altered using a safe virus to become sensitive to light. The implant will monitor their activity and provide pulses of light from tiny LEDs to prevent the build of abnormal activity.
Our role on this project is as a key contributor to the microelectronic design of the implantable electronics. We are leveraging on our past research outcomes and extensive expertise in neural interface design to develop, together with our collaborators, an ultra compact, low power probe for closed loop operation. This is in collaboration with Newcastle University, UCL and the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation.
For more details, please see the project website at: www.cando.ac.uk
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