Oxford Team Locates New DBS Target for Brain Disorder

by James Cavuoto, editor

February 2022 issue

A team of researchers at the University of Oxford in the U.K. has identified a novel target for treating movement disorders. The investigators, including Alex Green, an associate professor of neurosurgery, and Tim Denison, a professor of engineering science, used Bioinduction Ltd.'s Picostim DBS system to stimulate the pedunculopontine nucleus in Parkinson’s-like multiple systems atrophy.

The team has begun a feasibility trial called MINDS with five subjects with MSA receiving closed-loop DBS of the PPN. The protocol uses an investigational research platform, called the “Picostim-DyNeuMo,” which was developed in a strategic collaboration between Denison and Bioinduction.

The project embeds scientific instrumentation into the compact device that explores the role of circadian rhythms, motion, and brain signals in disease pathology and treatment. In addition to enabling basic clinical neuroscience, the system can be configured to respond to physiological signals such as patient motion in order to optimize therapy.

The research team seeks to identify biomarkers that signify the pathological state and how these vary throughout the day. These biomarkers would not only enable a closed-loop stimulation regimen, they could also improve patients’ sleep.

“Implantable stimulators provide a unique platform for enabling clinical neuroscience by providing 24/7 access to brain networks,” said Denison. “Scientific instrumentation first serves to help understand disease pathology and can then be configured to prototype enhanced therapy options including customization for patient-specific physiology and rhythms. The Picostim-DyNeuMo research tool is the result of a symbiotic collaboration with Bioinduction leveraging their Picostim platform.”

Said Green, “This is an exciting time for medical device research in the U.K. In the past, clinicians would often explore new indications for existing technology whilst engineers would build new systems in parallel. This collaboration aims to integrate the development of innovative technology with exploration of mechanisms underlying disease states from an early stage and will therefore increase our understanding of disease at the same time as trying to treat it. It is also a prime example of a multidisciplinary collaboration—academia and industry all working together with the same goals and bringing their strengths to the table.”

Ivor Gillbe, director of Bioinduction stated, “This is an exciting time for Bioinduction and the U.K. bioelectronic medicine industry. Bioinduction’s mission is to enable a paradigm shift in the world of DBS implantations for those with chronic brain disorders. The team and partners have delivered a major milestone in the development of the next generation of elegant, evolutive cranialized brain pacemaker platform. Picostim harnesses state-of-the-art innovations and research enabling new possibilities to address significant unmet needs, initially focused on Parkinson’s disease. Together, we can bring state-of-the-art neurotech innovation aiming to improve the outcomes for the chronic neurodegenerative diseases by accelerating advanced research in neuromodulation and bringing Picostim to the market for significant unmet needs in cerbrovascular and cognitive disorders.”

Funding for the trial was provided from the U.K. government’s BEIS department through the Royal Academy of Engineering, the MRC Brain Networks Dynamic Unit, and the John Fell Fund at Oxford. The team is now preparing funded trials using the system in post-stroke chronic pain, epilepsy, and disorders of consciousness.


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