MPMN_Medical Product Manufacturing News

Medical Product Manufacturing News, November/December 2015

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M e d i c a l P r o d u c t M a n u f a c t u r i n g n e w s q m e d . c o m / m p m n 6 n o v e M b e r / d e c e M b e r 2 0 1 5 neurologists have reported new advances using targeted electrical brain stimulation to treat various mental disorders, including obsessive compulsive disorder and even depression. in extreme cases, obsessive compulsive disorder (ocd) can be a very debilitating condition. Patients can spend hours repeating a task, cleaning their surroundings to exhaustion, or simply taking a shower. various drug therapies can help patients manage the disorder, but few treatments actually eradicate symptoms completely—that is until electricity entered the fray. doctors at Massachusetts general Hospital have been exploring a new treatment option for ocd patients whose drug therapy treatments have produced limited results for their condition. this new method involves subjecting targeted areas of the brain to electrical currents, which stimulate the neural fibers of the brain to elicit specific reactions—a process known as deep brain stimulation (dbs). the procedure involves drilling two dime-sized holes into the top of a patient's skull, and inserting two electrodes about 7 cm deep into the gray matter of the brain. doctors then create a pocket under the skin in the chest or abdomen of the patient, and implant a battery-powered pulse-generating device that connects to the electrodes in the skull through a wire. once the device and electrodes are in place, electrical currents are generated from the device and transmitted into the electrodes embedded in the skull. these currents stimulate the neural fibers that carry information from specific areas in the brain— specifically those associated with motivation—to the frontal lobe. despite the seemingly extreme nature of the procedure, dbs therapy has yielded some surprisingly encouraging results. the group reports that roughly 50% of the patients that underwent dbs treatments experienced an immediate decrease in ocd tendencies, before eventually dissipating completely. dbs treatments have been around for almost two decades, as the practice was predominantly used to treat severe forms of Parkinson's disease. as part of the government's brain initiative, doctors and engineers at Massachusetts general have entered into a five-year, $30 million effort to explore dbs as a treatment option for severe psychiatric disorders, most of which are currently limited to drug therapies. while many different drugs such as luvox and Prozac can help manage symptoms, they can also alter the chemistry of the entire brain, even the healthy areas. Meanwhile, electrical stimulation provides doctors with the ability to target specific populations of neurons in the brain, isolating the treatment to the areas of the brain that are causing the problems. of course doing so requires the abilty to identify which circuits and neurons are the source of the problem for each mental disorder—an area of understanding that remains vital to progressing the technology as a treatment option going forward. despite the wealth of knowledge gained on mental disorders over the years, neuroscientists have found it difficult to observe how brain circuitry operates in real time. so the researchers at Massachusetts general are working on a technology that can record multiple patches of neurons simultaneously for extended periods of time. they believe that this new technology will allow them unprecedented access into the inner workings of the brain as it functions, helping them see and understand different types of mental illnesses unlike ever before. the hope is that with an increased understanding of these conditions, they will be able to refine different dbs treatments to suit individual mental disorders, including depression. while results have been promising up to this point, there is still a long and arduous road ahead for researchers looking to adapt and enhance dbs technologies for treatment. and while dbs treatments may not be the immediate solution to any condition, they signal what could be a new, more targeted approach to identifying and treating conditions of the brain. —Kristopher sturgis A Tangled Web: The World of Synthetic Spider Silk Shocking mental disorders Into Submission who hasn't read a spider-Man comic book and watched the web slinger save someone with his super strong homemade webbing? it turns out manmade silk that is stronger than steel is closer than we think. easily marketable synthetic spider silk has been the holy grail of bioengineers for a long time and for good reason: it is fve times stronger than steel and three times tougher than Kevlar. a california startup called bolt threads has announced that it can use synthetic-biology techniques to engineer proteins that can be spun into fbers with properties they can alter depending on their customers' needs. More to the point, this is the frst case of it being done on large scale. using real spiders has been considered impractical since the arachnids are, by nature, cannibalistic and therefore cannot be bred on a large scale. several years ago, scientists even came up with genetically modifed "spider goats" that produced spider silk in their milk. scientists continue to fnd different methods to create spider silk in the lab. recently, a startup announced that it has come up with a new way to produce the material, as well as improve its properties. the team uses genetically engineered yeast to brew silk proteins that are then spun into fbers. thanks to customization, the properties of the fbers can be adjusted by altering the temperature, tension, and spinning process during creation. the company is hoping to put the high performance material in sport shirts and bras by 2016. Perhaps medical device applications will follow after that? though dan widmaier, Phd, has been developing the company since 2009 along with his partner david breslauer, Phd, the concept is not a new one. Just a few years before widmaier, in 2006, Kraig biocraft laboratories introduced their version of synthetic spider silk. Kraig acquired the exclusive right to use the patented genetic sequences for numerous fundamental spider proteins. in June of last year ceo Kim thompson unveiled the frst Monster silk textile created for commercial use. overseas, the german-based aMsilk has been developing a globally unique fber from recombinant spider silk and presented under the brand name biosteel. the product can be manufactured as a monoflament or multiflament depending on client needs. like bolt threads, the spider silk for biosteel is produced by synthetically producing proteins on to a fber. using biotechnology, the raw material, initially in powder form, is produced in high quality and in greater qualities than could be achieved using biological spiders. the process is based on fndings by thomas scheibel, Phd from the university of bayreuth, which were further developed by aMsilk. at the moment there is no synthetic spider silk on the market, but the race is on among companies around the globe. Multiple companies are estimating prototypes to hit the market by the end of 2015 into early 2016, but whether or not that comes to fruition is anyone's guess. once mastered, scientists envision that "this integrated approach provides a general path towards de novo functional network materials with enhanced mechanical properties and beyond (optical, electrical or thermal) as we have experimentally verifed," notes shangcao lin, Phd, of Mit in his paper "Predictive Modelling– based design and experiments for synthesis and spinning of bioinspired silk fibres," released last year. —Jordan brandes Engineered spider silk fbers wrapped around a roller. Image from Bolt Treads. A surgical team checks a patient with an implanted DBS electrode. need to KnoW

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