A typical human brain contains a hundred trillion synapses, which is three orders of magnitude larger than the hundred billion galaxies in the observable universe. This complexity represents one of the many challenges associated with understanding the normal and diseased brain and with developing treatments for the latter.
Neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, thought disorders such as schizophrenia and depression, circuitry malfunctions such as epilepsy, developmental conditions such as autism, and cancer such as glioblastoma and medulloblastoma, are comprised of spatial and/or temporal, episodic, elements that are incredibly difficult to pinpoint and treat. Furthermore, therapeutic strategies for neurological diseases are challenged by the presence of the blood brain barrier, a strict gatekeeper whose presence is even more sharply felt by the need to deliver multiple drugs to treat complex neurological disorders.
We have developed the
cellular equivalent of cyborgs
A case in point is the aggressive brain tumor glioblastoma multiforme, GBM, whose patients have a predicted median survival period of 15 months. The mortality rate is high, only 10% of the patients live 3 years or longer, and no contemporary treatment is considered curative. The infiltrative growth pattern of GBM renders complete removal of all tumor cells nearly impossible, while the heterogeneity and cellular plasticity of the disease dictates the need for a multi-drug regimen that must traverse or circumvent the blood brain barrier.
The challenges associated with probing and/or therapeutically manipulating the brain in general, and treating GBM in particular, speaks to the need to develop an innovative neurotechnology that is capable of performing a multitude of tasks with a high degree of spatial and temporal precision. We have developed the cellular equivalent of cyborgs by implanting artificial molecular devises into glioblastoma-seeking neural stem cells, NSCs. These cellular cyborgs are capable of launching multiple therapeutic agents at nearby cancer cells in response to wavelength-embedded commands.