Author: Rachael Hansford

Subcutaneous Ocrevus injection – OCARINA II trial results

Phase III trial results could strengthen Ocrevus’s position in multiple sclerosis

GlobalData, 19th July 2023: Genentech recently announced positive results from its phase III trial, OCARINA II (NCT05232825), investigating the efficacy of Ocrevus (ocrelizumab) as a subcutaneous injection, administered twice yearly for ten minutes, in patients diagnosed with relapsing multiple sclerosis (RMS) and primary progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS). Roche announced the trial met all of the primary and secondary endpoints, which could help strengthen Ocrevus’s position in the multiple sclerosis (MS) market, according to data and analytics company GlobalData.   

Barbora Salcman, Neurology Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “Ocrevus, in its intravenous (IV) form, has been approved for use in MS since 2017. It quickly established itself on the market after approval, not only due to its favourable efficacy and positive safety profile, but also because the agent treats all forms of MS, which is not the case for most other products. However, the IV administration of Ocrevus can be time consuming and uncomfortable for patients, as they need to receive the medication twice a year over the course of a two-hour infusion.”

Ocrevus is expected to dominate the MS market. However, sales are expected to decline due in part to patients switching to newer agents with more convenient methods of administration, such as Novartis’ Kesimpta, which is administered in the form of a subcutaneous injection every four weeks.

Salcman concludes: “The approval of new agents in recent years with positive clinical profiles and convenient routes of administration for MS, such as Kesimpta, may drive patients to switch from their previous medications. However, if the subcutaneous version of Ocrevus gains FDA approval, the agent might have an easier time retaining its customer base and even start attracting new patients who are searching for a reliable and safe agent with a convenient administration route.”

Digital biomarker platform for early and differential diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease

BrainTale has been developing non-invasive, accessible, effective and clinically validated measurement and prediction tools for patients suffering from brain diseases

BrainTale, a medtech deciphering white matter to enable better brain care, presented preliminary results demonstrating the effectiveness of its digital biomarker platform for the early and differential diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. Results were presented during the European Academy of Neurology (Budapest, July 1 – 4, 2023) and the World Parkinson congress (Barcelona, July 4 – 7, 2023). Vincent Perlbarg, co-founder, scientific director and president of BrainTale, has presented the results showing the relevance of BrainTale’s digital biomarker platform for the care of patients suffering from the disease and the development of new therapies.

White matter, which represents 60% to 80% of the human brain, plays a key role in its proper functioning, development, and ageing, whether normal or pathological. Since its creation in 2018, BrainTale has been developing non-invasive, accessible, effective and clinically validated measurement and prediction tools for patients suffering from brain diseases.

Affecting around 8.5 million people worldwide, the incidence of Parkinson’s disease continues to rise and is still diagnosed far too late to effectively slow its progression, despite white matter lesions being identifiable at an early stage, particularly in the basal ganglia responsible for initiating and harmonising muscle movements.

The results were presented from July 1-4th during EAN and on Thursday, July 6th with a poster entitled “Evaluation of a clinically validated digital platform to provide Diffusion MRI biomarkers in Parkinsonian syndrome”. The prospectively acquired data from 81 subjects (46 subjects with Parkinson’s disease [PD], 18 subjects suffering from tauopathy [PSP], 10 subjects with ⍺-synucleinopathy [(MSAc] and 7 subjects with multiple system atrophy with phenotypes [MSAp]) were studied together with the team of Professor Stéphane Lehéricy, head of the Neuroradiology department at the Hôpital de la Pitié-Salpêtrière, Paris Region Greater Hospitals, France).

The results demonstrated the ability of differentiating patients’ population based on statistically different (p<0.05) white matter quantification assessments for the different subject categories. Main outputs were as follows: decreased anisotropy fraction (AF) between the MSAc and PSP groups compared to the PD group and increased radial diffusivity (RD) between the MSAc group compared to the PD group.

These initial results obtained in patients with Parkinson’s syndromes monitored prospectively confirm the value of these biomarkers for differentiating tremor aetiologies. In the long term, this could lead to improved management of such patients, particularly when symptoms are equivocal

Prof. Stéphane Lehéricy, Head of the Neuroradiology Department, Paris Region Greater Hospitals, France

These preliminary data highlight the relevance and sensitivity of BrainTale’s white matter biomarkers to Parkinsonian syndromes, including early stages of Parkinson’s disease. It paves the way for the possibility of using those brain biomarkers not only for a reliable, non-invasive and early differential diagnosis of Parkinson’s syndromes, but also to help accelerate the development of new therapies. With the new version of the BrainTale-care biomarker platform available since February 2023, centres and partners equipped with BrainTale’s technology can now improve the care of these patients and help securing patients diagnosis.

Buntanetap in PD faces challenges despite phase III progress

Annovis Bio recently received a positive safety review for the Phase III trial of buntanetap in patients with early Parkinson’s Disease (PD) (NCT05357989) from the Data and Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB). Should buntanetap demonstrate good efficacy and safety profiles in the trial, it could be the first α-synuclein-targeting product to enter the market and one of the first potentially disease-modifying agents, but it faces a complex road ahead, says data and analytics company GlobalData.

The positive safety review from the DSMB enables the trial to move forward as planned, with an estimated completion date in December 2023. GlobalData forecasts that buntanetap will launch in the US and 5EU (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the UK) in Q4 2026 and Q4 2028, respectively.

Christie Wong, Pharma Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “The current medications used for the treatment of PD are limited to dopaminergic therapies that provide only symptomatic relief of motor symptoms, leaving ample opportunities for new entrants into the PD market. Importantly, buntanetap may actually possess disease-modifying properties by inhibiting α-synuclein, potentially preventing the formation of toxic aggregates and, in turn, halting disease progression.”

Key opinion leaders (KOLs) previously interviewed by GlobalData agreed that if a disease-modifying or neuroprotective agent was approved for PD, it could bring a major shift in the way these patients are treated. Like Annovis, many companies have been developing first-in-class programmes that target α-synuclein. According to GlobalData’s Drugs Database, there are currently 12 products in Phase I-III clinical trial development for PD in the US and 5EU that list α-synuclein as a molecular target.

Roche/Prothena’s prasinezumab, a monoclonal antibody targeting α-synuclein, administered via intravenous (IV) infusion is set to compete with buntanetap. There are two ongoing Phase IIb trials, PASADENA and PADOVA (NCT03100149 and NCT04777331). GlobalData forecasts that prasinezumab will launch in the US in Q4 2029.

Wong adds: “Buntanetap has a few winning attributes over prasinezumab. As well as a first-to-market advantage, it has a convenient daily oral administration compared to prasinezumab’s monthly IV infusion that typically requires administration and monitoring in a healthcare institution.”

However, KOLs expressed concerns about both products’ likelihoods of success, largely because it is still unclear whether targeting extracellular α-synuclein protein with buntanetap or prasinezumab will slow the progression of PD and offer enough functional benefit to PD patients.

Wong continues: “Furthermore, the lack of validated endpoints and biomarkers available to quantify disease-modifying properties of PD drugs remains a major hurdle in the development of novel treatments. Unfortunately, unlike amyloid imaging for Alzheimer’s disease, an α-synuclein imaging tool is not available. As such, advancement in assessing α-synuclein as a biomarker for PD is considered to be a very important step towards developing disease-modifying therapies.”

Targeting α-synuclein as a mechanism of action has yet to be proven in larger Phase III clinical trials, and previous attempts to target this protein have failed. For example, Biogen’s cinpanemab failed in its Phase II trial SPARK (NCT03318523) in February 2021, leading the company to halt its development for PD.

Concussion guidance for teachers and parents 

N-ABLES produces ‘Return-to-School’ concussion guide

Easy-to-use, concise guidance for the return-to-school (RTS) following concussion has been produced by UKABIF National Acquired Brain Injury Learning and Education Syndicate (N-ABLES).  This two-page document entitled ‘Concussion Return-to-School Guidance’ reiterates the staged return-to-education advocated in the Government’s new grassroots sports guidance but is aimed directly at teachers and parents supporting the young person’s RTS following concussion from any cause.   

Dr Emily Bennett, N-ABLES Chair and Consultant Clinical Neuropsychologist at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust said: “Concussion is not just limited to sports injuries, this mild brain injury can happen in the playground, park or in the home.  A return-to-learning has to take priority over a return-to-sport.  N-ABLES recommends this easy-to-use guide for use in all schools to help raise awareness of the effects of concussion and also to improve the understanding of its impact on learning.”   

Dr Gemma Costello, N-ABLES Steering Committee member and Educational Psychologist in Paediatric Neuropsychology said: “It’s important that parents understand how to monitor their child during the concussion recovery stage, and for teachers to be aware of the symptoms and the individual’s possible needs in the classroom”. 

Page 1 of the guidance provides an overview of concussion, the symptoms, red flags, advice on when a student can RTS and resume normal activities, examples of support and further information.  Page 2 is a step-by-step RTS guidance.  N-ABLES wants to disseminate this resource as widely as possible across the UK, to all target audiences involved in the education and support of children and young adults with ABI, their parents/carers.    

A return-to-learning has to take priority over a return-to-sport

Dr Emily Bennett

Download the guidance in PDF format

Magstim Horizon 3.0 Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation now in UK

Approval by UKCA Empowers UK physicians to advance care of Treatment Resistant Depression, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Anxious Depression with non-invasive brain stimulation

The advanced and FDA-cleared Magstim Horizon 3.0 transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) system is now UKCA registered and available for sale in the UK, providing physicians with a proven precision therapy to improve the lives of patients with depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and anxious depression1.

The first company to manufacture and commercialise TMS as a treatment for brain disorders, Magstim technology has been cited in more than 16,000 published studies in the neuroscientific and clinical research.

“Magstim was founded in Wales, where our TMS line is manufactured and continues to be advanced,” said Ronnie Stolec-Campo, CEO, Magstim. “The Horizon 3.0 technology is already in use in the US, and we are thrilled and honoured to make this technology available to the dedicated UK physicians working hard to advance the field and alleviate the pain and suffering caused by mental illness.”

From July 10-13, Professor Alex O’Neill Kerr, MBChB, Medical Director of Transforming Mind Solutions, and the Magstim team will be at the Royal College of Psychiatrists Congress in Liverpool to educate clinicians on utilising Horizon 3.0 in their practices. Studies show that patients respond positively to Magstim TMS Therapy2. Horizon 3.0 offers an intuitive system that optimises treatment and helps improve patient care.

“Our focus is developing innovative treatments to aid the cure of depression and anxiety,” states Professor Alex O’Neill Kerr. “Our patients have achieved significant improvements in depression and mental health using TMS therapy. We use Magstim technology and look forward to this Horizon 3.0 launch in the UK.”

To learn more about Magstim research and clinical neurotechnology innovations, visit Magstim.com or call 01994 241111.

About Welcony

Globally, Welcony technologies have supported thousands of research labs, clinics, hospitals and universities that focus on mental health, brain disorders, cognitive neuroscience and neuromonitoring. Key brands include Magstim Magnetic Stimulation, MagstimEGI high-density EEG, Technomed Clinical Neurophysiology and Neurosign Interoperative Nerve Monitoring.

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1USFDA. Horizon 3.0 is indicated for the treatment of Major Depressive Disorder, and decreasing co-morbid anxiety symptoms where present, in adult patients who have failed to achieve satisfactory improvement from prior antidepressant medication in the current episode, as well as an adjunct for the treatment of adult patients suffering from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

2Carpenter, L et al. “Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) for Major Depression: A multi-site, naturalistic, observational study of acute treatment outcomes in clinical practice (2012)” Depress Anxiety 2012: 29, 587-596.

FDA approves LEQEMBI™ (lecanemab-irmb)

Traditional approval for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease in the US

July 6, 2023: Eisai Co Ltd and Biogen Inc have announced that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the supplemental Biologics License Application (sBLA) supporting the traditional approval of LEQEMBI® (lecanemab-irmb) 100 mg/mL injection for intravenous use, making LEQEMBI the first and only approved treatment shown to reduce the rate of disease progression and to slow cognitive and functional decline in adults with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). LEQEMBI demonstrated clinically meaningful slowing of cognitive and functional decline in a patient group generalisable to US Medicare beneficiaries, which included a mix of racial and ethnic groups, patients with common comorbid conditions, concomitant medications and patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) due to AD or mild AD. Treatment with LEQEMBI should be initiated in patients with MCI or mild dementia stage of disease, (collectively referred to as early AD) the population in which treatment was initiated in clinical trials.

LEQEMBI’s traditional approval is based on Phase 3 data from Eisai’s large, global Clarity AD clinical trial, in which LEQEMBI met its primary endpoint and all key secondary endpoints with statistically significant results and confirmed the clinical benefit of LEQEMBI. The primary endpoint was the global cognitive and functional scale, Clinical Dementia Rating Sum of Boxes (CDR-SB). LEQEMBI treatment reduced clinical decline on CDR-SB by 27% at 18 months compared to placebo. Additionally, the secondary endpoint of AD Cooperative Study-Activities of Daily Living Scale for Mild Cognitive Impairment (ADCS MCI-ADL), as measured by people caring for patients with AD, noted a statistically significant benefit of 37%. This measures the ability of patients to function independently, including being able to dress, feed themselves and participate in community activities. Full results of the Clarity AD study were presented at the Clinical Trials on Alzheimer’s Disease (CTAD) 2022 conference and simultaneously published in the peer-reviewed medical journal The New England Journal of Medicine on November 29, 2022.

Importantly, following FDA’s traditional approval of LEQEMBI, CMS confirmed that broader coverage of LEQEMBI is now available and released more details on the registry, including the easy-to-use data submission process. The CMS-facilitated registry is now available for healthcare professionals to submit required patient data to CMS.

“Today, the FDA approved LEQEMBI under the traditional approval pathway, making LEQEMBI the first and only approved anti-amyloid Alzheimer’s disease treatment shown to reduce the rate of disease progression and to slow cognitive impairment in the early and mild dementia stages of the disease. As a research and development-focused company based on our hhc (human health care) concept, we are proud that the results of Eisai’s AD research over the past 40 years have been recognised and delivered to people living with this disease in the United States.

Haruo Naito, Chief Executive Officer at Eisai

“Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, fatal disease that greatly impacts not only the people living with it, but also their loved ones, care partners and society. We continue to work to create broad and simple access to LEQEMBI for patients and to support diagnosis and treatment at the early stage of the disease. Eisai will diligently work to educate physicians on the safe and appropriate use of LEQEMBI to maximise its benefit to people living with early AD and their families.”

“Today marks a breakthrough in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, and we are proud to be at the forefront of ushering in a new era of advances for a disease that was previously considered untreatable. We would like to express our sincere appreciation to those who have worked tirelessly to find a treatment for this unrelenting disease, without whom this progress would not be possible,” said Christopher A. Viehbacher, President and Chief Executive Officer of Biogen. “Our focus is now on the path forward, working alongside Eisai with the goal of making LEQEMBI accessible to eligible patients as soon as possible.”

LEQEMBI is a humanised immunoglobulin gamma 1 (IgG1) monoclonal antibody directed against aggregated soluble (protofibril*) and insoluble forms of amyloid beta (Aβ). Critically, LEQEMBI targets and clears the most neurotoxic form of Aβ that continuously accumulates as well as removes the existing plaques to treat this progressive, chronic disease. In June 2023, the FDA’s Peripheral and Central Nervous System Drugs (PCNS) advisory committee voted unanimously that the data from Eisai’s Clarity AD clinical trial confirmed the clinical benefit of LEQEMBI for the treatment of AD. Committee members also confirmed the overall risk-benefit of LEQEMBI. On January 6, 2023, LEQEMBI was approved by the FDA under the accelerated approval pathway.

Eisai has developed and deployed Understanding ARIA™, a multi-faceted educational initiative to further advance understanding in the AD healthcare community of the real-world management and monitoring of amyloid-related imaging abnormalities (ARIA). In collaboration with experts in the field of medical imaging as well as major professional societies, Understanding ARIA™ offers resources and programmes that include peer-to-peer education, individual and group educational sessions and subject-matter-expert evaluation of historical case studies.

Eisai is committed to ensuring that appropriate patients have access to LEQEMBI and has established a Patient Assistance Programme to provide LEQEMBI at no cost, for eligible uninsured and underinsured patients, including Medicare beneficiaries, who meet financial need and other programme criteria. Additionally, Eisai offers patient support for improving access through LEQEMBI Patient Navigators, who will provide information about accessing LEQEMBI, help patients and their families understand their insurance coverage and options, and identify financial support programmes for eligible patients. People in the US can learn more about these services by visiting LEQEMBI.com, calling 1-833-4-LEQEMBI (1-833-453-7362), Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern Time or faxing an enrollment form to 1-833-770-7017.

Eisai serves as the lead of LEQEMBI development and regulatory submissions globally with both Eisai and Biogen co-commercialising and co-promoting the product and Eisai having final decision-making authority.

*Protofibrils are large Aβ aggregated soluble species of 75-5000 Kd.2,3.4

Real-world study on AJOVY® reveals sustained long-term effectiveness in migraine

Data presented at the European Academy of Neurology Congress 2023: Teva’s 3rd interim analysis of PEARL real-world study on AJOVY® (fremanezumab) reveals sustained long-term effectiveness in reducing frequency, duration and severity of attacks in patients with chronic and episodic migraine

JULY 2023, TEL AVIV, Israel:  Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd has announced further positive data from the pan-European PEARL study investigating the impact of AJOVY® (fremanezumab) on the prevention of migraine in a real-world setting,[i] due to be completed in 2024.

The data from the 3rd interim analysis[ii] reveals that almost 60% of patients achieved a ≥50% reduction in monthly migraine days from baseline for migraine prevention, with sustained improvement in disability scores and acute medication use observed over 12 months. Treatment persistence rates were high, with 82.3% of patients remaining on treatment by month 12.

Not only was fremanezumab effective in preventing migraine attacks in patients with chronic and episodic migraine, but it has also shown to be effective in reducing the severity and duration of remaining migraine attacks.

Four abstracts from the third interim analysis of the PEARL study will be presented at the 9th European Academy of Neurology (EAN) Congress in Budapest, Hungary. The primary analysis was presented as an oral presentation by Professor Cristina Tassorelli, Department of Brain and Behavioural Sciences, University of Pavia, Pavia, Italy on July 1, 2023.

Commenting on the findings, Professor Tassorelli said: “Preventive treatments are of the utmost importance for reducing the burden of severe migraine, but levels of use of preventive drugs across Europe are still low, resulting in sub-optimal patient care.

These interim findings add to our growing evidence with fremanezumab in the real-world, showing how the burden of migraines can be reduced when an eligible patient has access to monoclonal antibodies like fremanezumab.

Professor Tassorelli

Pinar Kokturk, M.D. Vice President & Head of Medical Affairs Europe at Teva, said: “The 3rd interim analysis of the PEARL study provides valuable insights for clinicians and patients into the effectiveness of fremanezumab (AJOVY®) in a real-world setting. Real-world data allows us to bridge the gap between scientific evidence and the complexities of real-life scenarios, offering a comprehensive understanding of how treatments truly impact patients’ lives. The PEARL study is particularly relevant to clinicians due to its large patient cohort, coming from 11 countries across Europe”.1


[i] Ashina, M. et al, PEARL study protocol. Pain management, 11(6), 647–654. (v0.1) – The two year Pan-  European Real World (PEARL) prospective, observational study of AJOVY® (fremanezumab).

[ii] Ashina, M., et al. Real-world effectiveness & safety of fremanezumab in migraine: 3rd interim analysis of the pan-European PEARL study. Presented at European Academy of Neurology (EAN); 1-4 July 2023; Budapest

EAN-EPR-045

AI in stroke: tool outperforms human emergency call handlers in identifying stroke

AI in stroke: A team of researchers from Denmark have developed a new artificial intelligence (AI) framework to address the number of strokes that go unrecognised by human emergency call handlers.[i] The framework outperformed emergency call handlers in recognising stroke for both sexes and across all age groups studied, indicating its potential as a supplementary tool for early and precise stroke identification in the future.

The retrospective study, presented on 18th May at the European Stroke Organisation Conference (ESOC) 2023, drew from the Danish Stroke Registry and a dataset of over 1.5 million calls made to the Copenhagen Emergency Medical Services between 2015 and 2020, which included over 7000 stroke-related calls. Researchers utilised this data to train an AI framework to firstly transcribe the call audio and then predict the risk of stroke based on the transcribed text.

The results, which were evaluated on calls from 2021, revealed that the AI framework performed more effectively than emergency call handlers in identifying stroke cases. The AI framework achieved a recall (sensitivity) of 63.0% and a precision (positive predictive value) of 24.9%, which resulted in an F1 score of 35.7.* In contrast, emergency call handlers had a recall of 52.7% and precision of 17.1%, resulting in an F1 score of 25.8.

Dr Jonathan Wenstrup, one of the lead authors of the study from Copenhagen University Hospital, commented, “As one of the first points of contact for patients seeking medical assistance, emergency call handlers play a critical role in facilitating early and accurate stroke recognition. Many stroke cases can go undetected at this stage, leading to delays in treatment that can have potentially life-threatening consequences for patients.” 

Across Europe, stroke is the second leading cause of death and a major cause of adult disability, affecting over 1 million people each year.[ii],[iii] As populations continue to grow and age, the number of people living with stroke is projected to increase by 27% between 2017 and 2047 in the European Union (EU).iii Despite this, many strokes can be prevented, and if treated early, the likelihood of a positive outcome can be greatly improved.[iv],[v]

“As with any new tool, further research and development are necessary to improve the framework’s accuracy and expand its capabilities. In the future, it may be possible to train the framework directly from the call audio, bypassing the transcription step, as well as incorporating non-word audio – such as a slurred voice – into the training data. However, given the promising results of this study, it is already clear that technologies like this have the capability to completely transform stroke diagnosis and care.”

With the implementation of this new, cost-effective supporting tool, we can enhance stroke identification by call handlers and ensure more patients receive appropriate and timely care, ultimately improving patient outcomes

Dr Jonathan Wenstrup

*Key terms defined

  1. Recall (sensitivity): A measure of the proportion of actual positive cases that are correctly identified
  2. Precision (positive predictive value): A measure of the proportion of predicted positive cases that are actually positive
  3. F1: A harmonic mean of precision and recall, which combines both metrics into a single score

References

[i] Havtorn, J.D., Wenstrup J., Borgholt L., et al. A retrospective study on deep learning-enabled stroke recognition for a medical help line. Presented at the European Stroke Organisation Conference; 24 May 2023; Munich, Germany.

[ii] OECDiLibrary. Mortality following stroke. Available at: https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/sites/dbabdd9d-en/index.html?itemId=/content/component/dbabdd9d-en#:~:text=Stroke%20is%20the%20second%20leading,diseases%E2%80%9D%20in%20Chapter%203) (Accessed: May 2023).

[iii] Wafa HA, et al. Burden of stroke in Europe: Thirty-year projections of incidence, prevalence, deaths, and disability-adjusted life years. Stroke. 2020;51(8):2418–2427.

[iv] American Stroke Association. Preventing Another Stroke. Available at: https://www.stroke.org/en/life-after-stroke/preventing-another-stroke (Accessed: May 2023).

[v] American Stroke Association. Why Getting Quick Stroke Treatment is Important. Available at: https://www.stroke.org/en/about-stroke/types-of-stroke/is-getting-quick-stroke-treatment-important (Accessed: May 2023).

Could new materials lead to implantable treatments for epilepsy?

Breakthrough research on materials may help new types of probes be safely implanted in the brain. 

Bioengineering researchers from the University of Glasgow have investigated new dissolvable coatings which could help safely guide flexible implants into brains to help regulate temporal lobe epilepsy.

The development of the material, outlined in an early-view paper in the journal Advanced Nanobiomed Research, is part of a European-funded collaboration which aims to tackle epilepsy by treating and regenerating damaged brain tissue.

The €8m Hybrid Enhanced Regenerative Medicine Systems project – HERMES – was launched in 2019. It brings together 12 partners from seven EU countries to find new ways to heal brain disorders using transplants which combine biological and artificial components.

Neural probes capable of deep brain stimulation have been used to help treat people living with Parkinson’s disease and other conditions like obsessive-compulsive disorder. They are a promising future treatment for temporal lobe epilepsy, which can be resistant to drugs.

Currently, deep brain stimulation probes, which are made from Silicon, often cause scarring around their implantation site because of a mismatch between the stiffness of the artificial materials and the soft tissue of the brain. 

One solution could be a new generation of flexible probes made from new bendable materials which offer a better match with the softness of brain tissue. Flexible implants could also widen the possibilities of where the implants could be placed in the brain, opening up treatments for more conditions.

However, the increased flexibility of the materials can increase the risk of the probes bending or breaking when introduced into brain tissue – a key problem that needs to be solved before the HERMES team and others can use them effectively as implants.

In the paper, the Glasgow team and colleagues in Italy outline how they explored the potential of four different biological materials as coatings for future HERMES implants. The materials act as temporary stiffeners, which could allow flexible probes to reach their target in the brain without bending, before dissolving once the surgery is complete. 

Maria Cerezo-Sanchez, from the James Watt School of Engineering, is the lead author of the article. She said: “The tests we conducted show some really promising results for creating coatings for future flexible neural probes that could help safely guide them to their targets in the brain.

It’s an exciting step forward, and we’re continuing to explore the potential of these materials for use in neural implant procedures.

Maria Cerezo-Sanchez, James Watt School of Engineering

The Glasgow team’s research was conducted in partnership with Prof Giulia Curia’s group at Università degli Studi di Modena e Reggio Emilia, and Dr Gemma Palazzolo at IIT – Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia in Italy.

‘Bioresorbable Insertion Aids for Brain Implantable Flexible Probes: A Comparative Study on Silk Fibroin, Alginate, and Disaccharides’, is published in Advanced Nanobiomed Research and is available at https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1002/anbr.202200117

The research was supported by funding from the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme, the University of Glasgow, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, and the European Commission.

The HERMES consortium consists of: IIT – Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (Italy), Università degli Studi di Modena e Reggio Emilia (Italy), Università degli Studi di Verona (Italy), Agencia Estatal Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas (Spain), Politecnico di Milano (Italy), Aarhus Universitet (Denmark), University of Glasgow (United Kingdom), Tampere University (Finland), Fundacion Instituto de Estudios de Ciencias de la Salud de Castilla y Leon e Universidad de Salamanca (Spain), Eurokleis S.r.l. (Italy), Radbound Universiteit (The Netherlands), Den Institute (Belgium).