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Ionic Neuromodulation For Epilepsy Treatment

Project description

Revolutionary approach to treat drug-resistant epilepsy

Around 30 % of patients with epilepsy have a drug-resistant form of the disease. In this condition, even two anti-epileptic drugs are unable to achieve freedom from seizure when prescribed as mono-therapies or in combination. Currently, there is no approach that has produced meaningful improvement in such patients. This EU-funded consortium is developing a totally new approach to manipulate neuronal cell excitability – applying neuronal firing by direct ionic actuation at the microscopic scale and monitoring cell responses by nanoscale transistors. This multidisciplinary consortium aims to establish proof-of-principle for breakthrough neuromodulation technology by enabling future brain implants for epilepsy treatment through in vitro testing of special polymers and ultra-sensitive ion sensor arrays.


There is a need for a paradigm shift in the treatment of drug-resistant epilepsy. Several routes have been explored to modulate or silence dysfunctional neural circuits, through genetic, electrical, magnetic or optical means. All have serious limitations due to the unphysiological mechanisms used to regulate neuronal activity. In IN-FET, we address this issue by manipulating the elementary building blocks of cell excitability: ions. IN-FET tackles the visionary idea of altering neuronal firing and synaptic transmission by direct ionic actuation at the microscopic scale, while monitoring cell responses by arrays of nanoscale transistors. We will develop and test, in vitro, the use of active polymers to trap or release electrochemically specific ions in the extracellular milieu surrounding neurons. These will be integrated with ion sensors and ultra-sensitive nanowire arrays, offering closed-loop regulation of cellular electrical activity. We will deliver for the first time a device that can physiologically modulate the neuronal membrane potential, the synaptic release probability, and glutamatergic NMDA receptors activation by altering potassium, calcium, and magnesium ionic concentrations in a controlled and spatially-confined manner. High-resolution simultaneous probing of cell activity will be performed by Si-nanowire vertical transistors, penetrating the membranes and detecting the cell electrical activity at unprecedented spatial and temporal resolutions. In conclusion, IN-FET's multidisciplinary consortium brings together state-of-the-art electrochemistry, 3-d nanofabrication, nanoelectronics, and numerical simulations, and combines neuronal biophysics to device modeling. IN-FET will thus establish the proof-of-principle for a breakthrough biocompatible neuromodulation technology, with a clear impact for future brain implants for epilepsy treatment, advancing neuroscience, biomedical microsystems engineering, and nano-neurotechnology.

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Net EU contribution
€ 847 812,49
34136 Trieste

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Nord-Est Friuli-Venezia Giulia Trieste
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 847 812,49

Participants (8)